Cherry Hill Skatepark was the ultimate destination for skateboarders
from 1978 to 1981.
Skaters from all over America traveled to the indoor park
at 614 Hollywood Ave. to try out the multiple cement bowls
and half-pipes. Some of the era's greatest professional
skaters, like Shogo Kubo and Stacy Peralta, used to ollie-d
(a jump performed by tapping the tail of the skateboard
on the ground), caught air and generally showed off while
local teenage boys came out to gawk and pick up tips.
But what made this skate park so memorable?
"It was perfect," said Brian Keith, who was a
regular at Cherry Hill Skatepark when he was 13 and living
in Maple Shade. Keith, now 38, operates www.cherryhillskatepark.com,
a high-tech trip down memory lane that celebrates the beloved
"All the pros skated there. Sponsors would fly them
in," said Keith, a graphic designer from Lumberton.
His Web site features pictures and stories from the park's
heyday. In the photos, boys - mostly 12 to 16 years old
and wearing concert T-shirts - seemingly fly off the rims.
A Courier-Post story dated June 8, 1979, described the park's
premier attraction: an egg-shaped pool that was 38 feet
across and 15 feet deep. In the story, the skate park's
operator Robert T. Hurley said more than 3,500 kids were
members of the park. To illustrate the park's drawing power,
the reporter wrote about cars in the parking lot with license
plates from Florida, Ontario and Virginia.
Now the skate park site houses Keystone Industries, a dental
products supplier, and the cement bowls are just a memory.
None of the original owners or operators could be found
Cherry Hill native Wally Hollyday designed and helped build
the park in 1978. At 19, Hollyday had just moved to California,
where he built his first skate park in 1977. Then, he was
hired to build his second in his hometown. Hollyday still
operates skate parks in California.
In building the Cherry Hill park, Hollyday said he wanted
it to look good and be aesthetically pleasing, like a work
"I'm a perfectionist. It's in my nature to want it
to look and be perfect. There's a big difference between
something that looks good (and) something that's perfect,"
The park featured numerous cement bowls - right and left
kidney-shaped bowls, a giant egg-shaped bowl, a keyhole
bowl, hip bowl, bank slalom, a 150-foot half-pipe (a U-shaped
ramp with a flat section in the middle) that went into a
3/4-pipe that ended in a bowl.
The transitions - the curve between the flat bottom and
the bowl's lip - allowed skaters to gain momentum.
"The transitions were perfect. There were no ripples,
no kinks," Keith said.
Since building Cherry Hill Skatepark, Hollyday has earned
a good reputation in skate circles and has built about 30
skate parks in the U.S. Right now he is working on a park
in Sayreville, Middlesex County.
Keith said there was renewed interest in Cherry Hill Skatepark
after the acclaimed skateboard documentary Dogtown and Z-boys
was released last summer. The movie detailed the history
of skateboarding and its crossover to popular culture through
the eyes of America's best skaters, circa 1975 through 1980.
Famed pop culture photographer Glen E. Friedman lived in
South Jersey and photographed famous skaters there. Some
of those pictures from Cherry Hill Skatepark were published
in a book that was published at the time the movie was released.
Some former regulars said the park closed because insurance
was prohibitively expensive. Others say the skate park just
wasn't popular any longer and wasn't making money.
The building became a teen-dance club called California
West before Keystone Industries purchased it in 1985.
Keystone Industries General Manager Otto W. Voit believes
some of the bowls are still under the floor of the warehouse
and office space at the site. When plumbers worked under
the floor, they hit gravel, he said.
Voit said the previous owner also talked about hearing a
"ghost skater" when the building was very quiet.
Voit said none of his employees have mentioned hearing a