BATH, Maine — Eight months after the new Bath Skatepark and adjacent Youth Meetinghouse — or teen center, as it’s commonly known — opened in the former Armory building, business, and the noise, is booming.
On Sunday afternoon, a dozen kids — including a few students who traveled from the University of Maine in Presque Isle — rode half pipes and flew over ramps, while two 11-year-old girls gabbed in the teen center.
Soon, depending on the success of an ongoing fundraising campaign, the park will boast a half pipe for more advanced tricks.
But already, it’s “the best park around,” said 18-year-old Jesse Albert of Scarborough, who has driven up a lot lately to skate.
On an average weekday, 50-55 kids show up after school, riding skateboards and bikes, or just to hang out on the couches in the teen center, play pool or arcade games or use the computers.
On Sunday, 11-year-olds Heidi Guthro of Phippsburg and Arianna Marquis of Bath huddled on an overstuffed couch and gabbed.
They come nearly every day after school, and often on weekends, to “have fun,” Marquis said. Sometimes, amid the crash of skateboards landing on jumps, bars and ramps, the girls play some of the center’s video, arcade, foosball and other games.
Mostly, though, they just talk — in their own space.
“It is their space,” director Cassandra Brown said Sunday. “They’re here, being rambunctious, and they kick back. It gets intense.”
The skatepark and teen center reopened in the city-owned former National Guard armory in July, after its original location — the old YMCA building — was closed in December 2011 because it was unsafe.
After some controversy over the best use of the building, the city council voted to allow the park to move into its current 8,000-square-foot facility.
Four couches, computers and a flat-screen TV fill the main room, along with a snack bar complete with salvaged bar stools. Behind the counter, a frozen drink machine churns and popcorn pops all afternoon.
Thumps and jumps echo through the center through windows overlooking the skatepark.
Ranging in age from 11 to 22, skaters fly over ramps, screech along metal pipes and — inevitably — suffer a hard landing or two on knees and various other parts.
Ray Kohutka, 19, Ryan Van Buskirk, 22, and Kenneth Poole III, 21 — all students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle — drove down Saturday and rented a hotel room in order to skate all day Sunday.
“My buddy up in Calais hit every skatepark in (the state) and said this one was the best,” Poole said.
And it may get better. With the teen center free and the skatepark $14 per day — or $10 for a three-hour session — fundraising is well under way for both operating expenses and a new expansion of the 11,000-square-foot facility (about half skate park and half teen center) by 2,000 square feet.
In a side room, the skeleton of a half pipe, miniature pipe and other structures awaits donations of lumber and nails.
The board of directors found volunteers, including a contractor and a Lowes employee, to help build the new room.
“I’ve got plenty of hands to wield a hammer,” Brown said, but they’ve run out of materials.
Expansion or not, the park and meetinghouse is serving the purpose the board — and Brown — hoped it would.
When teenagers come together, she said, “Everyone is experiencing everything all together.”
“And it’s pretty cool,” Marquis said.
To donate to the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, visit www. bathskatepark.com.