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Planning Commission loves vision for Gravity Ranch facility Print
Written by Alissa Johnson   
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Freestyle progression facility could open this spring

Imagine that off-season arrives this spring and instead of mourning the arrival of mud season, you could head to an indoor training facility with your BMX bike or snowboard in tow. There, you could practice jumps and tricks in an environment where the consequence of not sticking a landing is softened by a foam pit.

 

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If all goes according to plan, Gravity Groms owner Doug Hudson and his family will open what they’re calling a freestyle gravity progression center this spring. Hudson shared that plan with the Gunnison County Planning Commission last week, where there was nothing but love for the idea.
The Hudsons envision Gravity Ranch as a place where bikers, skateboarders, snowboarders, skiers, and freerunners (also known as practitioners of parkour) can practice their tricks. Proposed on a lot across from and just south of the Crested Butte South entrance on Highway 135, Gravity Ranch will be equidistant between Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Western State Colorado University.
Hudson said the facility would be the only one of its kind within 18 minutes of a university, and would be popular with students, tourists, and athletes alike. He added that research shows that kids are starting to ask their parents to plan family vacations near these types of facilities.
“Air awareness. That’s what we have for sale. The ability to know where your body is in the air relative to the landing zone, but more important, the ability to remain calm in the air. It’s a coveted skill only acquired through repetition,” said Hudson.
The 11,750-square-foot facility would be created in an existing horse arena. From the outside, the only visible changes to the structure will be the installation of emergency doors and bringing lighting up to code. The bigger transformation will take place inside the facility, where jumps, trampolines that can launch the average adult 25 feet in the air, a half pipe and other features will create a space were kids and adults can practice their tricks and compare notes. Unlike facilities in other parts of the country, which segregate sports, this facility will flow them all together.
The only hitch is that the county will need to approve a land use change so that the property, which will include the family’s living quarters and an employee apartment, can include commercial uses.
“We can honestly tell you that we have taken a long, hard look at every single property available that could accommodate this north of Jack’s Cabin cutoff...” Hudson said. “Over the course of two years we have determined there is no other site that is reasonably attainable… This location is very well suited to the use we’re proposing for it.”
Hudson added that they have unanimous letters of support from Crested Butte South, the city of Gunnison, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, WSCU, and the Crested Butte Snowsports Foundation.
But other than clarifying a few aspects of the plan, Hudson didn’t have to do much convincing. Board member Warren Wilcox said, “I think anything that keeps kids active has got to be a wonderful thing, especially if they don’t have to be high to enjoy it. I’ve never seen one of these [facilities] but I think it’s kickass.”
Board member Jeremy Rubingh joked, “I’m excited about this because I want to perfect my back flip. In all seriousness, I think this will be an amazing amenity in the community.”
“I can see the immediate success of an operation like this,” said commission member Jim Seitz. And outgoing chairman Ramon Reed said, “I think it’s a great project and from our perspective it’s really a matter of dotting all the Is and crossing the Ts—a devil in the details type of thing.”
Reed did want some reassurances about liability and safety at the facility, and Hudson explained that there are five aspects to safety in a facility like this: design, construction, maintenance, education and supervision. He and his family are working with Spohn Ranch—a company that has done work for the X Games, the Gravity Games, and the Olympics—to design the facility. Hudson said the company uses certified engineers, and once the facility is open a daily inspection will look at every surface in the facility for structural integrity.
“Before anyone can use it, they will have to go through a velocity clinic, a 30-minute clinic where they get the tour and get shown what to do and what not to do. There’s a lot of etiquette in these parks about calling lines, making your intentions known, and waiting your turn,” Hudson said.
He added that supervision by staff will be critical as well. “No aspect of this business is more important than safety,” Hudson added.
Also in Hudson’s favor is the size of the facility—11,750 square feet is just under the 12,000-square-foot benchmark that would require a sprinkler system. That can be a huge expense for an unheated structure and would make the discussion with the Planning Commission more involved.
Instead, the Planning Commission scheduled a public hearing for February 15. Hudson estimates that in the first year of operation the facility will generate $61,000 in sales taxes, and generate eight full-time and 18 part-time jobs. That’s $500,000 in salaries and wages during the first two years.
 “We hope this will be fun for you to consider,” Hudson told the Planning Commission. “This is a service the valley really, really wants.”

 
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