AUSINTOWN — Wedgewood Ramps Skate Park has been in the spotlight lately as the Austintown zoning office had a list of violations that need to be addressed.
Owner Russell Kaye Jr., 26, said he is working to resolve any issues to keep the business going and to be a good neighbor.
Wedgewood Ramps, 1739 S. Raccoon Road, Wedgewood Plaza, is actually the fourth company to operate a skatepark there. Kaye said the facility has gone under three other names over the past 30 years. He said it used to be Half Pipe Mike’s, Gravity House and Stomping Grounds.
Kaye said that when she was 12, her mother, Joan Fedoruk, died. Since he loved skateboarding, his father Russell Kaye Sr. decided to rent the existing skate park in 2009 and maintain it. It gave Russell Jr. a place to skate and something worth working for.
“My dad wasn’t a skateboarder, but I am,” Kaye said.
He said his father kept the business going with the intention of passing it on to his son one day. Kaye said that when he turned 18, his father let him take on more and more managerial duties. He also worked with his father’s residential/commercial painting business, which he used to fund the installation and help make improvements.
In 2019, he took over the management of the place and it seemed that everything would be fine.
Then in March 2020 the pandemic shutdown happened and Wedgewood Ramps had to close for a short time. In May 2021 the skate park reopened and Kaye said that in the summer it really took off.
He said the business was considered a sports arena for spectators and during the pandemic it was limited to the number of people it could accommodate. It also had to comply with other requirements such as hand sanitizers.
It’s been tough for Kaye, who said he suffered a business loss during the pandemic, but the popularity of a skate park the size of Wedgewood Ramps is spreading fast. In 2019, Kaye began offering similar monthly memberships to area gyms. It worked and today Wedgewood Ramps has over 100 members and offers walk-in passes.
Getting through the pandemic was one thing, but now the facility is facing a slate of Austintown zoning complaints, which were heard in a case before the Austintown Zoning Appeal Board on Feb. 24.
Both Kaye and his father were present at the meeting, and Kaye told the council that he would work to resolve the issues. One of the issues was a BYOB event with live music.
“It happened in 2017,” Kaye said. ” It was my fault. It was a bad decision to organize such an event. No more parties or night events.
He said the skate park has strict hours of 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. on weekends.
The Zoning Appeal Board heard the case regarding eight items under the conditional use permit issued on June 6, 2013 and amended on November 25, 2014. The eight items considered by the board are hours of operation, noise complaints, subletting of interior space, house occupancy, bring your own beer events, live music, fire code non-compliance and building inspection code non-compliance of Mahoning County. Continuing the case for 90 days would give owners time to obtain the required drawings.
In the meantime, the business can continue to operate as long as it adheres to the original opening hours approved in 2013, and if it has no more noise or nuisance complaints to the police, no more complaints from other tenants, no subletting, and bikers and skaters do not ride on the sidewalks in front of the shops in the square.
One of the toughest things Kaye faces is having designs for a skate park addition and the new LED lighting. It required him to seek an architect to draw up the plans to provide to the Mahoning County building inspector within 90 days.
“I don’t know if it’s possible,” Kaye said. “I have trouble finding an architect, and when I do, it can take up to six months to get drawings.”
He said if he shows he is close to completing the plans, he may be able to get another extension. Otherwise, he said the facility would just have to shut down for a few months.
Either way, Kaye wants to cooperate and make Wedgewood Ramps a respectable company and a good neighbor.
As for the hundreds of skaters who are regulars at Wedgewood Ramps, they hope the facility stays open. Skateboarders and cyclists from all over the tri-county area come to Wedgewood Ramps because there aren’t many skate parks available. One such person is Nico Rossi, 17, from Niles.
“If it wasn’t here, I just wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” he said.
Kaye said the only legal place to skateboard is on bike paths, which don’t offer the thrill of a ramp track. Wedgewood Ramps has half pipes and quarter pipes, where skaters can almost defy gravity.
Kaye also said the sport is growing and currently has skaters ranging in age from 5 to 45. He even gives lessons to those who wish to practice this sport.
For the future, he hopes to sublet some of the space and have related businesses such as a bike shop or maybe skate apparel. But he must first solve the zoning problems.