BMXers no longer have to sneak around Sarasota to stunt and grind.
Thursday marked the first day the Payne Skate Park allowed BMX riders into the park that normally is reserved for skaters and skateboarders. The BMX community came together to get the city of Sarasota to allow it.
“It’s about time,” skate park manager Mike Walling said. “Let the bikes in.”
More than 50 BMXers in their teens and early 20s whizzed around the bowls inside Thursday afternoon, showing off for friends.
A contract to warranty the park itself exempted BMX bikes, because of the greater likelihood damage might occur to the equipment, Walling said.
Sk8skool, a nonproft that Walling is involved in, took over park operations in 2010. The skate park opened in 2003.
The nonprofit partnered with Peddlers Bike Shop and Sarasota biker to have the city amend the contract to allow bikers, Walling said.
Deighton, 17, submitted a petition with about 300 signatures to the city to show that there is demand by BMXers for placer where they can ride and practice their sport. Now that the park is open for business for bikers, he’s happy.
“We have everything that we need to do tricks,” he said.
The senior and competitive biker is glad he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for the boys in blue.
“I was always on the lookout for cops. They didn’t like us doing tricks,” he said.
BMX riders have had to travel to Tampa and North Port to ride, Deighton said.
Options to perform BMX tricks around Sarasota were not legal. Bikers would have to sneak into the skate park off hours and hope police wouldn’t issue a trespassing citation, Walling said.
The other option was to find any structure around the city to perform tricks on and bikers hope that the police won't catch them, Walling said. Or as the city's ordinance covers that, hands must be on the handlebars at all time and the bicycle cannot "curve to and fro."
Even beyond that, bicycles are not allowed on certain sidewalks in the city, according to Sarasota Code.
Walling credits how Deighton stepped up for other teenagers and riders.
“He’s the only kid who really wanted to get involved,” he said. “The rest would complain, and he stood up.”
Biker Tyler Burke, 16, of Sarasota was glad to see Sk8skool show its dedication.
“If it wasn’t for them taking over the park, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
The skate park hopes to have BMX events in the future, and Walling said he would love to see BMX and skateboarding recognized as a school sport.
For now, BMX riders can come in on Thursdays and pay $10 to ride from 3 to 9 p.m., Walling said, and skateboarders are still welcomed during the night, but it’s the only BMX night for now.
Deighton hopes the fee is reduced soon, but so far Thursdays are OK by him.
“Any day is a good day to bike,” he said.