The Texas Blade Classic 4 at Alliance Skatepark in Grand Prairie Texas is coming up this Saturday on October 5th so we decided to pick the brain of it’s organizer, Brian Barnard, to find out more regarding the history of the contest and what we can expect from the upcoming Texas Blade Classic 4.
We are quickly approaching the fourth year of the Texas Blade Classic contest at Alliance Skate Park in Grand Prairie. Now you have worked for Alliance for several years prior to starting the Blade Classic contest. What prompted you to want to organize a rollerblading event at Alliance?
The first Texas Blade Classic was in 2016. I had just started my second tenure with Alliance Skatepark. I’d previously worked for the park in 2007 while I was in college at UT Arlington In 2009 I moved on to a role with the Dallas Stars. I came back to work with Alliance in the summer of 2016 right as the park was beginning a quarter million dollar renovation. After a few months back I received the green light to put on a contest and began planning what became the first Texas Blade Classic. The immediate goal was to channel the energy I felt from the Hoedown. The scene in Texas is so healthy and I really believed we had a lane to fill with hosting a contest at Alliance Skatepark.
Alliance Skatepark is one of the most unique and diverse skateparks in the country, dare I say, in the whole world. Describe to us what makes Alliance different from other skateparks?
Alliance has a prime location right in the middle of the DFW Metroplex and sits on about 4.5 acres. There are two main skateparks; A 13,000 sq ft Outdoor “ASA Style” pro course and a 10,000 sq ft covered “Hangar”. There are also BMX trails, a gym facility, and a RC car track along with a retail shop and a concession area. Over the last two decades the property has seen more than a few upgrades and each time evolved into something better. Most recently, with the addition of a full capsule bowl, foam pit, gym facility, and BMX trails. It’s really much more than a skatepark. It’s a family friendly environment that provides a safe and welcoming atmosphere.
Some of the rollerblading community may remember Alliance Skatepark as host to several ASA contests in the past. The park has grown immensely since those early days, both in size and popularity. Can you describe to us what some of the biggest changes to the park have been?
The majority of the changes have been to the covered skatepark which we call “The Hangar”. It has an absolutely amazing full bowl mini ramp, foam pit, and separate sections with plaza style obstacles and transition areas. Considering it still has the majority of the original ramps, the outdoor ASA style course is close to what it originally was from the beginning. A few weeks ago on Instagram Jaren Grob posted a clip from one of his runs at a X-Trials event at the park. It was pretty cool to see how the park was almost twenty years ago and I think it got a few of the locals hyped to spend more time on the pro course when they come blade to Alliance.
There seems to be new obstacles added specifically for the Blade Classic contest each year. Can you give us any clues as to what additions you are working on or is everything kept secret until the event?
I can tell you we’re definitely working on some new additions mostly centered on maintaining flow while still providing another level of amplitude and technicality. I really like what Jason Reyna and John Sullivan have come up with. We’re also bringing back the drop rail set up that people really liked and some others have unfinished business with. If anyone wanted to help with the cost of adding features or just donate to add additional prize money you can do so via PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Venmo @jason-reyna
Alliance is a massive park including a covered pavilion area and an even larger outdoor section. Will the entire park be utilized for this year’s contest?
The “Hangar” section will host the open contest and the bowl contest. The outdoor section is currently going through maintenance so unfortunately we are unable to host any events there right now but there is always the possibility of using the outdoor course in future events as people continue to request it.
In years past you have had p-rail battles, best trick contests and an open division contest. Can you give us a breakdown of what the format of the competition will be this year?
The open contest will run the same as it has in years past with a mixture of individual runs and jam format. I think that format is appropriate with the contest being held at a somewhat traditional skatepark. The bowl contest will run a jam format as it has in the past as well. We’ve had some really memorable jams in the past and I’m excited to see more from past competitors who don’t get the opportunity to blade the capsule bowl as often as some of the locals.
This year the Blade Classic will also be included in the Blading Cup park series and included in their point ranking system. That means top three qualify to the pro event in downtown Santa Ana. What led the Blade Classic to be a part of the Blading Cup series? Was that something that you approached Jon Julio about or did they approach you to include the event in their series?
Alliance Skatepark is managed by ActionParkAlliance which also manages skateparks in Fontana and Palm Springs California. The Executive Director of ActionParkAlliance, Mark Laue was in the blading scene with NISS back in the 90’s. He’s based in Dallas and when he’d be at the park he’d often joke to me about knowing Julio. My original goal was to bring Forecast Tradeshow to one of the California parks. One day this past spring, Mark was in the office and I was telling him about what Julio was doing with Forecast and the Blading Cup events. I encouraged/begged for him to reach out to Julio, and he called him on the spot and that day the seed was planted.
The pro shop at Rhythm Skate Shop at Alliance Skatepark for years was hesitant to carry inline skating products but in recent years they have started stocking blading items from various companies. Do you think it is a result of the success of the Blade Classic contests or did the growing scene in Dallas/Fort Worth play a part in them wanting to carry blade products?
I would definitely say it’s a result of the strong scene we have here in Dallas. But because we now have Carriers Skate Shop in Plano, we only really stock the bare necessities in Rhythm. Wheels, frames, bearings, etc. We try to push as much business as we can to Carriers Shop in Plano. Fritz Peitzner is doing such an amazing job with the shop we want to do everything we can to help him while still being able to provide for bladers immediate needs at the skatepark.
The Hoedown at Eisenberg’s Skatepark (RIP) was one of the most anticipated contests for many years, and Alliance Skatepark and the Blade Classic have helped to fill the void that was left when Eisenberg’s closed their doors. Do you feel any pressure to live up to the expectations that may come with comparisons to the Eisenberg’s Hoedown?
The Hoedown changed my life. I will be forever grateful to have witnessed the few that I was able to. To me nothing will ever be what the Hoedown was. The atmosphere, the high level of blading, the overall vibe was very special. The Texas Blade Classic is about celebrating the Texas scene. I never intended on replacing or exceeding what the Hoedown was able to accomplish but I absolutely wanted to channel that energy and be able to provide something close. Above all it’s about blading, friends & family. The only pressure I feel is what comes along with running a smooth event.
Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping make the Texas Blade Classic possible?
Thank you to Mark Laue, Victor Nelson, Jason Reyna, Jon Julio, Nate Landerholm, Ryan Lakey, John Sullivan, Brian Moore, Kevin Little, Geoff Acers, the whole DFW Bladers squad and the Texas Blade scene for the continuous support.