Winter 2010 Forward to a Friend

Ray's MTB Indoor Park

Ray's Park

IF YOU’RE A RIDER AND LIVE ANYPLACE WHERE WEATHER – WINTER WEATHER, IN PARTICULAR – CAN STOP YOU FROM TAKING TO THE TRAILS ON YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE, AN INDOOR PARK MIGHT BECOME AN OBSESSION. IT DID FOR RAY PETRO, WHO BUILT THE WORLD’S FIRST INDOOR MOUNTAIN BIKE PARK. HE TALKED WITH DRIVE ABOUT IT.

Park
Park
Park
Park
Park
Park
Park
Park
Park
Park

“I rode a bike until I was 14 years old – just around the neighborhood,” recounted Ray Petro. “Then I got sidetracked until I was 30, and I started riding a bike again.

“I fell in love with the sport of mountain biking. I rode my bike all that summer and into the fall of 1996. When winter came, I got really depressed. Nobody was riding, and the weather was terrible, and it was muddy. That’s when the idea was born.

“I tried to make it happen a few times, and it just didn’t. Then in summer of 2004, I found a landowner who thought it was a really great idea. He said, ‘I have the perfect place for you.’”

BUILDING AND REBUILDING

That place was a factory building in Cleveland, Ohio, where parachutes had been made during World War II.

Petro continued: “I started to monkey with it. I was always in the trades – a remodeling contractor, mainly residential stuff. I’ve had my tool belt on my whole life.”

Today’s park is completely different from what he built at first. “We’re always changing things,” said Petro. “When we figure out what the riders like, we build more of that, and we remove the stuff that’s not their favorite.

“I oversee all of the construction, and I probably do about half of it. The other half is done by either paid employees of the park or younger guys who are in college. I’ll trade them a season pass for hauling rocks and doing demolition and helping me build stuff.”

SUBARU INFLUENCE

“In 2004, we opened up Thanksgiving weekend. We were open through the winter. We did OK, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it again. It was a lot of work.

“I got a phone call from Subaru Great Lakes Region – from a person named Aspen. She said, ‘We bumped into your Web site on the Internet, and we think it’s really cool. We’d like to send somebody out to see it. And we might want to get involved.’

“We swept up the place, and I gave them a tour. We were able to strike a deal within the next few weeks.

“That was the bridge that got us to the next season.

“Subaru has really gotten involved. It has sent checks and cars. We’ve done showings at the park, and we’ve had events. Subaru has brought in pro riders, and we’ve had gimongous parties there.

“I was able to parlay that into a relationship with Gary Fisher® bicycles. They sent somebody over, and they’ve been involved since summer of 2005. It’s a natural group of partners.”

WIDE APPEAL

“The park is set up like a giant Monopoly board inside of an old factory. It’s split up into sections, from beginner to expert. We try to build everything to be as safe as possible.

“It’s not like a mountain bike ride in the sense that you head to a state park and go out in the woods for two hours. It’s very social. It’s like a big party. We’ve got these big lounges. There’s no drinking – everybody’s just high on riding their bikes and trying different things.

“We’ve designed it so you can bring a group of riders that you normally would not ride with – like a pro, and your girlfriend, and kids – and there’s something for everybody to do. You wouldn’t take that whole group to the state park and ride because somebody wouldn’t be in good-enough shape or something. You’ve got a wide range of experience.

“Plus you can plan a trip next year and not worry about the weather – you just have to get here.

“I couldn’t make it on just my local riders. We started to get folks who would travel. We needed to make it a weekend’s worth of fun. So every chance I had to expand, I did. And I’ve expanded the park every year since we’ve opened. We now have 120,000 to 125,000 square feet.

“Subaru considers me a national attraction, and all my other sponsors do, too. We’ll see 300 to 400 to 500 people on a weekend.

“We used to only let in BMXers on certain days. But now that the space is larger and we’ve made a bunch of improvements, we’re letting in all bike riders – whether they’re on a BMX or a mountain bike. They ride in different areas in the building.”

THE CURRENT SEASON

Ray’s reopened in the middle of October 2009, and the park has numerous special events planned throughout the winter. To see more photographs and to find out more about the park and its events, visit www.raysmtb.com.

Ray’s MTB Indoor Park started as a dream that took eight years to become a reality. “It’s the world’s first indoor mountain bike park,” Petro mused. “They’ve had indoor skateboard parks, and they would let people ride their BMX bikes in there, but I was like, ‘You know, if you had enough space …’”