Brian Schaefer used to sleep in the attic and build skate ramps all day. In January 1993, skateboarding was his life.
Now, 25 years later, not much has changed.
“It’s been an awesome, wild ride,” he said with a smile.
The Tampa businessman is the owner and operator of the Skate Park of Tampa. If you’ve driven west on I-4 into Tampa, you’ve driven right past his old warehouse building. You may not have seen it, but it’s become a haven for skateboarders from all over the world.
“He pumps them up and gets them stoked,” said Alec Gabler, who started working at SPoT four months ago. “High-fives all day.”
Schaefer and a group of friends scraped together whatever money they could find in 1993 to obtain the space that now houses dozens of ramps and a retail shop. What began with a dream – to provide a place to skaters to hang out together – has become a reality thanks to hard work.
“It’s been more than I could have ever imagined,” said Schaefer, who is a favorite of all the kids who come to his park to skate. “At 21 years of age, that was my hobby that turned into my dedicated lifestyle.”
SPoT hosts skate events that are recognized as some of the best in the world. The park’s nonprofit, Boards For Bros., builds skateboards for kids who can’t afford them out of donated items. The boards have been distributed worldwide, including to countries like Cuba, Canada, Puerto Rico and Honduras.
The park’s goal is to build and distribute 1,000 boards in 2018.
“To me, him as a community hero, being such a strong vision and voice for this community, it was a no-brainer,” said Michelle Box, who heads up the Boards For Bros. initiative. “His passion for Skate Park of Tampa is contagious. Without him, this place wouldn’t exist.”
Schaefer also opened an Ybor City restaurant called ‘The Brick’, which helps support the skate park.
“This is his ship. He’s the captain, man,” said Gabler. “He’s the best. He really is. Great boss. Great friend. Yeah, super positive.”
Schaefer was nominated as an ‘Everyday Hero’ by Box. His work in the community helps allow kids experience the sport of skateboarding the was previously out of reach.
“The American dream,” he said.
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