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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANTHONY REYES • @NWATONYR Students from the Springdale I School walk to the cafeteria Friday, Jan. 23, 2015 at the Jones Center in Springdale. The Center is marking 20 years of operations in 2015. - Photo by Anthony Reyes

SPRINGDALE -- The Jones Center plans to add a major amenity this year with the opening of a nearly 3-acre mountain bike skills park.

The park will be called "The Runway," inspired by the adjacent municipal airport. Mike Gilbert, chief operations officer for The Jones Trust, said it will be built with all skill levels in mind.

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Bicycle Skills Park

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The Jones Center

The Jones Center in downtown Springdale is a 220,000-square-foot facility that includes an ice rink, a junior-Olympic size lap pool, an activity pool, basketball court, fitness center, indoor track, conference center and auditorium. It’s operated by The Jones Trust.

Source: Staff report

"Our park is designed to help teach mountain biking skills to everyone from a toddler to an adult," Gilbert said.

The park will include beginner and intermediate courses, pump tracks and custom features found nowhere else, according to a news release from The Jones Center.

One feature is a North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane with a 37-foot wing span, which will serve as the hub for the three "lines," or courses, that will flow across the park. The plane will sit in the middle of a circular pattern of rubber padding that will look like a runway.

Officials hope to open the park this fall. The center first must obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration because of the park's alignment with the airport's runway. That approval is expected to take three to six months, Gilbert said.

"It's really more of a formality than anything else, but it's a federal regulation," he said.

Northwest Arkansas has gained a reputation in recent years as a mountain biking mecca with publications such as National Geographic and Outside magazine recognizing the bike trails in the area. The Runway likely will enhance that reputation.

The park will cover 2.75 acres. A $1.1 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation will pay for most of the project.

The Jones Trust spent about $250,000 last year to buy the land on which the park will be built, Gilbert said. That property, formerly owned by Waste Management, is on the northwest corner of South Old Missouri Road and East Emma Avenue and is connected to the rest of The Jones Center's property.

Center officials batted around different ideas for the property. Seeing what an impact mountain biking has had on the region, they zeroed in on a bike park.

Gilbert contacted Brannon Pack, executive director of the nonprofit Ozark Off-Road Cyclists, for his help in visualizing what a bike skills park would look like there.

The park will be the largest of its kind in the region, and possibly one of the largest in the nation, Pack said.

Children, many of whom may not otherwise have the opportunity to do so, will be able to develop the abilities necessary to manage the region's outdoor trail system by practicing at the bike skills park, he said.

"Each time they come back they'll be able to advance their skills," Pack said. "We're doing this in a safe, controlled environment."

Programming will include workshops, hands-on instruction and competitions, according to a Jones Trust news release.

NW News on 01/11/2018

Print Headline: 'Runway' bike park coming to Jones Center

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