Good vibes and cool terrains make the indoor Stronger Skatepark in Milwaukie a hot spot for kids to skateboard through the winter.
My kids have grown up skateboarding — their dad gave them each (all five of them, ages 8 to 16) skateboards for their first or second birthdays. Still, Portland’s rainy winters and my kids’ love of many different sports have meant they’ve always skateboarded in fits and starts. But at the beginning of the school year, after about a yearlong lull, my three younger boys (Walter, age 8, Noah, age 10, and Hank, age 12), and seemingly just about every other kid they know, were suddenly obsessed with skateboarding. This renewed passion has them skateboarding to school, after school, and just about any other time they can.
Fast forward to the first rainy weeks of fall, and my boys were begging to go to an indoor skatepark. They’d been to Commonwealth Skatepark in inner Southeast, but didn’t feel totally comfortable there as they thought it was awesome but a bit better suited to more advanced skaters. So we decided to try out Stronger Skatepark, the brainchild of AJ Waters, which opened in April 2019. It’s located a mile outside of Portland, in Milwaukie, right next to Urban Warrior, the indoor obstacle training park. I’d heard great things, as had my boys, and Stronger Skatepark’s positive reputation didn’t disappoint.
In addition to building a skatepark, Waters sought to build community among Portland skateboarders, and the veteran skater has done just that. My kids were hooked from the second they peeked through the wall of windows that faces the parking lot, and they felt right at home when they walked through the door.
It’s a bright, clean space with an engaging, mellow, welcoming vibe. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, as is the clientele. The wooden indoor park, built by local ramp builder Scott Everly, features a Baltic birch top surface and a range of terrain, including multiple quarter-pipes and banks, a street section, a 4-foot mini ramp, and a 2-1/2-foot micro mini ramp. The course welcomes newbies and challenges experienced riders. On the night we were there, there were enough other kids (and young adults) to build a thrumming energy without it being too many. They all had enough room to explore, plus lots of “pro skaters” to inspire them.
In fact, my boys were so excited to start skating that they had their helmets on even before getting out of the car. Once we got through signing waivers and paying, they literally scrambled to get out onto the park. (Although they were happy to kill time while I signed waivers messing around with Tech Decks — a popular brand of fingerboards, which are another obsession and are essentially mini skateboards you ride with your finger — on the mini skateboard course in the lounge area next to the sign-in desk.) They then hurriedly made their way up to the bank, where a group of kids stood waiting for their turns to drop in. Then, they too waited. A few minutes passed. I noticed they were still waiting, and their excited grins had dimmed, replaced with worry. I wasn’t sure what to do, particularly as I was of no help since I can’t even step on a skateboard myself, let alone give advice on how to ride one.
So, I just smiled at them and watched them stand up there for a while. But soon I noticed that weren’t just waiting, they were watching, too. Then, one by one, they, too, took tries at dropping in — and off they went. Yes, there were a few tumbles (and a bandage or two and multiple breaks for something to drink) but their anxious faces quickly transformed into thrilled ones as they began zipping across the park. “It takes courage to drop in,” shared Noah, “but once you do, it’s awesome.”
I liked that, as an observer, I could sit along the counter that lines the park, which is close enough to the action but also not in the line of fire. Instead, I sat working on my computer while they skated away, but I was right there to witness it all. There is also a comfy assortment of sofas to sit on in the adjacent lounge as well as quick (mostly healthy) snacks and drinks, such as chips, bars, applesauce, chocolate milk and bubble waters for purchase.
Two hours later, as the park was closing, none of my boys wanted to leave. Instead, they were already plotting for a return visit. In addition to the varied terrain and the fact that “everybody here is nice,” (according to Hank), they liked that they could also use their trick scooters and hope to come back on a Wednesday, the day that BMX bikes are also allowed. (Foldable or adjustable scooters are not permitted during regular sessions.) Walter loved it, too, especially the mini ramps, and had so much fun he decided to come back for his birthday the following week.
All three of my boys left the park exhausted, happy, and in need of showers. If that’s not a successful outing, I don’t know what is.
Before You Go:
Stronger Skatepark, 6102 SE King St., Milwaukie. 503-850-4572, strongerskatepark.com.
Hours vary, so check the website. Stronger Skatepark is open daily for various sessions and is generally open Monday-Thursday: noon-9 pm; Friday: noon-10 pm; Saturday: 10 am-10 pm; and Sunday: 10 am-7 pm. (There is an additional 10 am-noon session for ages 6 and under on Wednesdays, and BMX bikes are only allowed on Wednesdays.) Various clinics and special sessions are scheduled throughout the week. The park is welcoming to skaters of all ages and abilities and encourages those who need special accommodations to contact them. $12 for 2 hours, $20 for all-day entrance, and $75 for monthly access.
More Places to Skate
Commonwealth Skatepark, which opened in 2013, is the other indoor skatepark in town. This park is a 4500-square-foot course skateboarders love. My kids, who are beginners, have found the clientele and staff here to be very welcoming, but the course a bit intimidating. A good entry point is to attend the 10 am-noon Saturday kids-only session, which is a steal at $9. commonwealthskateboarding.com.
There are also numerous outdoor skateparks where kids can drop in on non-rainy days. These include Ed Benedict Park (SE 100th Avenue and Powell Park), Gabriel Park (SE 45th Avenue and Vermont Street), Gateway Discovery Park (10520 NE Halsey St.), Glenhaven Park (NE 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street), Holly Farm Park (10819 SW Capitol Highway), Khunamokwst Park (5200 NE Alberta St.), Luuwit View Park (NE 127th Avenue and Fremont Street), and Pier Park (N Lombard Street and Bruce Avenue). My kids’ favorite is Glenhaven Park, where the great variation of terrain is both challenging and accessible and the vibe from more experienced (teens and older) skaters is generally generous and helpful.
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