Pearl Jam Bassist Builds Skate Park in Browning
Growing up in Big Sandy, a rather isolated town in north central Montana, Jeff Ament would read Skateboarder Magazine every month and gaze at the pictures of tricks. Once he had them choreographed in his brain, he would take one of his homemade skateboards outside and test out the moves on a series of ramps he and his father built in their backyard in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“Skateboarding introduced me to the DIY ethos, that you could be a skater, a photographer, a painter and a musician. So, that is what I decided I was going to do at a pretty young age,” Ament, 51, said recently. “When I went to Great Falls or Helena for a contest and met all the skaters from all over the state, I decided that these were ‘my people’, and eventually I ended up in Seattle with a bigger group of like-minded artists, musicians and skaters.”
Ament’s journey from small-town Montana was a fateful one and eventually led him to a group of artists that included Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. In Seattle in 1990, the men formed Pearl Jam and 90 million record sales later, the group is widely considered one of the most influential rock bands of the last 25 years.
Through the years he has shared his passion for skateboarding with rural communities by helping develop skate parks and bowls across the state, from Missoula to Great Falls, Helena, Glendive, St. Ignatius and Baker.
His latest creation has emerged in Browning, where Ament has commissioned a new skate park that stretches over 12,000 square feet. Ament’s vision was to replicate the classic Big-O Skatepark, which was a legendary site in Orange, California with one of the most famous pools in skateboarding history before it closed in the 1980s.
“Giving these small towns in Montana the best of something connects them with the rest of the world on equal terms,” Ament said. “The kid in Big Sandy or Browning actually has a better or equal park to the kid in London, England or New York City. That’s pretty cool.”
Ament footed the $250,000 bill for the project mostly from the support of the Pearl Jam Foundation, an organization the band founded to fund philanthropic projects by collecting $2 from every concert ticket. Ament also pitched in his own money to cover the extra costs for the Browning park.
To build the behemoth structure, he enlisted the expertise of Billy Coulon of Evergreen Skateparks, a company based in Portland, Oregon that specializes in the development of large parks. He has also brought in Mark Scott with Dreamland and Mark Hubbard with Grindline, two other skilled developers who have built some of the most famous parks in the country.
“We were pretty happy to build that kind of park where there isn’t already these preconceived notions of the way kids will skate,” Coulon said. “The kids will just get on the board and ride it and develop a style that is really original and really all their own. It will be exciting to watch.”
Ament said he met a couple kids from Browning while skating in St. Ignatius and they told him about skaters up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It inspired him to think about developing something.
“It’s also one of the most beautiful and wild places in our whole state,” he said. “I love being there.”
The park is slated to officially open in spring.
“I’d love to build more parks in Montana,” Ament said, adding Libby is on his list of potential future sites. “I think we could add some cool elements to the existing park in Havre. We have plans to add to Big Sandy. I’ve driven past empty city parks in Lewistown, Fort Benton and Boulder where I could imagine a bunch of kids skating some concrete.”
Peal Jam Tour
Here are the dates:
10/1 Cincinnati, OH – U.S. Bank Arena
10/3 St. Louis, MO – Scottrade Center
10/4 – 10/5 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
10/8 Tulsa, OK – BOK Center
10/9 Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena
10/10 – 10/12 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
10/14 Memphis, TN – FedEx Forum
10/16 Detroit, MI – Joe Louis Arena
10/17 Moline, IL – iWireless Center
10/19 St. Paul, NM – Xcel Energy Center
10/20 Milwaukee, WI – BMO Harris Bradley Center
10/22 Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
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