This past Friday, July 20, Nike SB welcomed skateboarders, industry leaders, local retailers and media to celebrate the release of Paul Rodriguez's latest signature shoe the "P-Rod Vl" and the opening of their new team training facility. Named after its address on Sixth and Mill, located in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., this massive skatepark takes up an entire city block. The breathtaking, open, three story layout houses a small enclosed and elevated viewing area with a small office area -- but 95 percent of the space is skateable.
Training facilities have recently become part of the skate landscape, either nestled in the warehouse of companies like Girl, Baker Boys Distribution, and RVCA or private facilities owned by riders, like one shared by Anthony Van Engelen, Guy Mariano, Brandon Biebel and Dylan Rieder, or the most famous, owned by Eric Koston and Steve Berra: The Berrics, which has stretched the perception of the value of a training facility. You could fit every training facility in Los Angeles into Nike's and shake them like dice in a cup.
With most training facility keys held by a limited few and with incredibly restricted access, Nike SB's Global Brand Manager Hunter Muraira proudly states, "Sixth and Mill is about the community of skateboarding. The space serves as a TF for our riders of course, but it's equally important for this space to live as a place for local skaters, retailers and friends to come by and experience everything NIKE Skateboarding is."
Built by Joe Ciaglia and the crew at California Skateparks, on Friday night the course was barely discernible with all of the revelers; ledges looked more like bars, covered in cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. However, with veteran skate filmmaker Jason Hernandez heading up SB's video department and "Scuba" Steve Chalme managing the team and catching second angles, plenty of amazing footage is bound to make it out into the web sphere in the near future. Muraira explains, "Content will be created in real time with our social channels leading the conversation. The space was built to evolve over time. The content we create will do the same."
Reflecting the depth of the current Nike team, legendary skater Lance Mountain stood talking to preeminent photographer C.R. Stecyk III, while young guns Theotis Beasley, Daryl Angel, Daniel Shimizu and Shane O'Neill milled around the packed party. The man of the hour, Paul Rodriguez accepted congratulatory high fives from skaters Bryan Herman, Mikey Taylor, Keith Hufnagel and a multitude of others.
Although it could be described as a typical skate shoe release party: it was held at a skatepark where pizza and beer were served. The massive scale of Nike SB's event was overwhelming, even to those who've been around long enough to have "seen it all." A long time industry insider smiled as he scanned the room, surmising, "There's no middle class left in skateboarding." Face to face with such largeness, it's hard to argue that bigger is not necessarily better.
Continuing the theme of going big, the evening ended with an incredible performance by Dungeon Family heavy hitter, Killer Mike, (who at over 6'5" tall), filled the cavernous space physically and lyrically. After a set of hip-hop anthems, Killer Mike shocked the crowd by closing with, "I have a seventeen year old son. Support your local skate parks." Proving that, much like Nike SB, sometimes the biggest, scariest and most imposing guy in the room can nail it.