Introduction by Be-Mag Photos provided by G.RAMPS & Camp Woodward USA Interview by Christoph Böttcher & Oliver Nermerich
Who is Hans Geiger and what has his involvement with Rollerblading been in the past?
I was born „many years ago“ in southern Bavaria (Wolfratshausen). I had my first pair of Rollerblades in 1991 – at that time bought from Titus Dittman – now one of the biggest Skateboard distributors in Europe. I’m the founder and owner of G.RAMPS (est. Feb 1st 1996 – in a few days 15 years old). I also was President of the DIV (Deutscher Inline Skate Verband) from the beginning (1995) until the early 2000’s and I was basically the main responsible guy for establishing the DIV-Tour in Germany, which became quite popular within Europe throughout the years.
What is Woodward?
Woodward is a small village in Pennsylvania/USA. 40 years ago a simple barn outside of Woodward was chosen to become the training center for the Pennsylvanian olympic gymnastic team. That’s where it all started. Since more than 20 years, Woodward was establishing skating in its camps and kept improving and listening to the pro athletes and beginners, kept adding „foam pits“ for safe practicing and created an environment second to none for all friends of action sports. Right now, Woodward is the most respected and most desired place for any action sports athlete. And even more: Woodward became a Mecca for youth interested in photo and video arts, digital editing and even music. There are already several Woodward Camps in the US and since May 2010, there even is a Camp Woodward in Beijing, China.
John Bolino – Sweatstance
What is your involvement in the planning of Camp Woodward Europe other than providing knowledge and craftsmanship to pull the ramps off the ground? Who came up with the idea of a European Camp Woodward and who suggested Germany?
Well, „I hate to say it“ – but this was all my idea. The chosen location is a place which I know since I’m little. My company’s warehouse is located less then 3 km away of the Camp. I live like 10 minutes away from the location. It is a former military base and I even was considered to serve my military time there (eventually, I didn’t because I started my own business when I was 19 years old). One of my employees (Peter, an inline skater as well) lives only 50 m away from the place! In addition to that, I already had good business ties to Camp Woodward/USA and the management of Camp Woodward there. I actually had this idea already for about 2 years now. But it was not before I was at Camp Woodward in Pennsylvania in March 2010, when I got inspired again and I was researching the plans for the military base in Lenggries on the internet out of my room at Woodward, PA! It looked like if they had no plan for this location still – so I put it on my agenda. On a general company meeting a few weeks later, I was bringing up the idea about „building“ Camp Woodward at this military base and my co-workers pretty much freaked out. This motivated me to go to the city council of Lenggries. Even here, I expected them to „boot“ me out of their offices – but surprisingly it was the total opposite. From then on, it was basically only running through open doors.
How likely is it that camp Woodward will find its new European home in the region of Bavaria in Germany? Are there still obstacles to overcome or is everything set in stone and ready to get kicked off? What’s the biggest challenges at the moment?
Very likely. As I mentioned, we are already working almost 9 months on it. We are very deeply involved in political discussions etc. The city council already had an unanimously vote of the council in favour for the concept. So again, I would say: very likely! The biggest obstacle is now the city council vote, which might happen already January 17th. But I have a good feeling about that.
If there are obstacles appearing during the project, how do you plan to overcome them? Who is with you?
I’m not alone in this. In fact, there is a whole team working for this project already. This team is headed by Carl Zwerenz, who also happens to be the owner of the property. This means: even the owner of the property is 100 % supporting this project. I actually have been visiting Camp Woodward, PA with him 2 times already. Within this team, there are professional lawyers, architects, PR companies and project developers. They normally work on way bigger projects, but they all love this concept and are 200 % supportive and putting their work into it! That’s why I am not concerned at all.
Franky Morales – Topsoul 360° Out
Will the European version of Woodward offer the same experience to its campers than the camps in the US? Or are we in to a watered down version of it all because of legal regulations/issues and/or money issues?
As far as I would judge, we will be offering at least the same experiences then you will be able to get in the US. The size of the camp here is already as big as the camp in PA – then we will build the most up-to standards skate parks and facilities. The location is simply awesome and will provide a special “home” feeling as well. I actually would dare to say, we could provide a even better experience.
How come Woodward chose a city in the south of Germany for its European substitute? Why not Marseille in France or Barcelona in Spain? Is the city of Lenggries already affiliated with sports of any kind and are they used to tourists of that number and age at all?
There are a few „ingredients“ which makes a camp a nice place to visit and maybe even to return.Probably the most important ingredient is the „homely“ feeling you will have at camp. Lenggries – being on the bottom of this really beautiful mountain valley – exactly provides that! Second is the excessive offer of attractions. Within walking distance of the camp site, you will find:
– a Ski resort – a river which is famous for rafting on it – a nice bike park – a huge High-Ropes course – a Paragliding school – horseback riding – real good Climbing spots – beautiful Mountain-Bike tours – etc.
Other ingredients are of course more economical.Also within walking distance, there is the train station which offers a direct connection to the Munich central station – every hour! The Munich airport is just 1 hour of driving away and some major autobahns are running very closely.
Last but not least, if you look on the map of Europe and mark Lenggries, you will find out that Lenggries is in the very center of Europe.
Lenggries is maybe not really used to that many tourists – and especially not in that age group. But this property has been a military base. When this base was actively running, there was about 1000 soldiers there. Lenggries could handle that – and me and the guys from the city council in Lenggries are very positive, that they will be able to handle that many kids quite well.
Is Woodward addressing said white sports in their concept? Will there be a training facility for snowboarders or freeskiers at camp, too?
Yes – Snowboarding/Free Skiing will be a major element at camp. Woodward will have exclusive areas on the Brauneck ski resort and there will be a range of indoor areas solely for snow sports to train and practice any trick safely before going on the mountain and land it.
John Bolino – Phillips 66
How does the citizen of Lenggries react to the plans? Are the residents realizing Camp Woodward as the chance that it is for their economy or are they cautious of what’s going on? What’s the reaction from the government?
The majority of the citizen are supporting this concept. Of course there are always some people who have different opinions or fears – but there are very little critics. As mentioned before, the city council and county government are also very supportive. I think, the „big fear“ is actually to vote for a project with such a magnitude. The city has hired an economical auditor, who got all our economical data and a lot of more information. But it looks like, that this auditor also gives the thumbs up for this!
Is there a certain structure of buildings already present at the location the camp will be based on or is everything going to be built from the ground up?
That is actually one very amazing thing: there is already a perfect structure of buildings there. The first time, I was walking though the property, I thought: „My god, this must have been built for becoming a Camp Woodward!“ There are buildings for accommodation, for education, for administration, for catering, cinema, bowling, storage and there even is a full size gymnasium. Then there are these huge hangars, where we are going to build really big indoor parks. Then there is a sports field (soccer field) with a running track around it, there are 2 beach volleyball fields with pure white sand and two basketball fields – what more do you want? We have a huge „center place“ which will host events and portable ramps and there are big green areas where we will be putting nice park-style skate parks.
If you would build a camp this size up from ground, this would be super expensive! Fortunately, this is already all there.
Aerial image of the future Camp Woodward site in Lenggries, Germany
The site in early December 2010
Are the skating facilities already planned out? What dimensions are we talking about when it comes to facilities for ramps, pools and street courses and how does the size of the obstacles compare to the Woodward parks in the US? Is there a specific new kind of obstacle planned that has never been set up before? And if that is the case, what can we expect?
No, we haven’t planned out the sports areas in detail yet. This will be the next step after a positive signal from the city in January – and this will be a huge amount of work. We do have dedicated areas for certain sports facilities of course. Right now, I can tell that in the final stage, we have planned for a total of more then 15.000 m² (160.000 ft²) indoor sports facilities and another 20.000 m² outdoor. With a little luck, we will add another huge area to it, offering the worlds biggest dirt bike area.
Within this new parks, there will be some new obstacles, of course. What I’m sure of at the moment is, that we will offer a „Mini-Mega Ramp“ at camp. Which now would be new to Woodward, but one camp in the US might get one already during next year.
How large is the contract volume of this job compared to the average project G-Ramps puts into practice for their customers?
Waaayyy bigger than usual!
Will the skateparks be indoors to keep the camp running at all times of the year or are outdoor parks planned, too? Can we expect concrete ramps or will everything be made of wood?
As mentioned above, we will have huge indoor areas. There will be a lot of wood, but also a lot of concrete indoors – that’s already sure. The camp will be able to run all year, but it is likely that we will close the regular operation for 2 months in spring and 2 months in fall. The sports facilities however will remain open and we will provide 365 day training possibilities for pro athletes, like in the other Woodward Camps.
Basketball, Beachvolleyball, Volleyball
Digital Media Studio
Skate Plaza Outdoor, 1500m²
Indoor Sports Hall
Park-Style Skate Plaza 4000m²
Center Plaza, 5000m² with Mini-Mega-Ramp
Canteen, Cinema, Bowling
BMX-Dirt Jump, 2000m²
When is the general construction work for the buildings in the area going to start? When will your team be there to set up the ramps? Has your company built ramps for Woodward before?
If all goes well, we are going to start with renovating around may 2011 and start construction in July 2011.Ramps construction will also start in summer 2011 for the outdoor areas and continue with the indoor parks during fall and winter 2011. My company has delivered some ramps to Woodward already. Our vert ramps are known to be the best worldwide. We also provided essential parts for the X-Games MEGA Ramp. But this project is so big, we will of course involve other ramp companies as well Like California Skateparks, for example. They are the best concrete skate park builders worldwide.
Is G.RAMPS aware of the needs and wants of Rollerbladers when it comes to building a skatepark?
I’m pretty sure it is. I have good friends and close contacts into the heart of the rollerblading scene. We built the ramps for the DIV tour in 1996 and following, which were setting the bars for competition ramps back in those days. Of course we will consult many good and creative athletes for the design process of the park areas. And we are glad to have real close contact with these guys!
Eric Burrow – Mute
There have been tendencies over the last year that Rollerblading is kind of merging (at least in part) with Parkour, a sport that focuses on overcoming any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment. Will there be a chance to get my Parkour game on in Woodward Europe?
We’re thinking about something like a Parkour area. However, the planning of the facilities altogether will start after the city of Lenggries finally decided to make the camp a reality.
How many campers will be able to live at Camp Woodward Europe at a time when it is completed? What’s the approximate cost for a week at Woodward in Lenggries? When will we be able to actually go there on vacation at the earliest?
The capacity will be around 1000 campers, which is pretty similar to the Camp in Woodward, PA. We will start out with half of the capacity first and then open more buildings as we go.
The cost are not totally fixed yet, but it will get to around 780 EUR per week (including housing, catering etc.) – that is about the same as in Woodward USA.
Outside of the main holiday times, we also will offer daily and weekend admission. These prices have to be figured out still, too.
Steve Iacono – Alley-Oop Makio
What about work opportunities at Camp Woodward in Lenggries? What characteristics should a future employee measure up to other than a good amount of talent in their chosen sport? Where can I apply to if I want to work as an instructor at the camp in the future?
Of course there will be a huge demand for good instructors, assistants and many more people to run a camp that size. Besides knowing his sport, someone interested in working at camp should be motivated, a honest, friendly and „easy“ guy with a love for (young) people and with the ability to become an active part of a team. Well, there would be so much more to say – but if someone is really interested, the contact email would be: firstname.lastname@example.org
But please send real „applications“ with some sort of information. I get many applications for G.RAMPS and since we spread the word of Woodward Europe, almost 60 % of all e-mails are job applications. But many people seem to not bother about giving some sort of details about themselves. I get emails like: „I’m skating since 10 years and it would be my dream to work for Camp Woodward“ – that’s it. No further information – sometimes not even age information.
Please: imagine that someone will have to look at your application and has to judge by the provided information. If all we have is a 3 line e-mail – it might not be enough. So: the better you present yourself, the better the chances.
As for the company side: How can a Rolling or other extreme sports company can get involved in the project? Are there any chances to put up ads at Camp Woodward?
Yes, of course there are chances to team up with Camp Woodward Europe as a partner. We actually have already contact with 2 major players in rollerblading. The best way is to simply contact us!
In the US Camp Woodward collaborates with Red Bull. Same for Europe?
What do you think of Winterclash 2012 at Woodward Europe?
Would be a nice idea!
Hans Geiger on site in Lenggries
Check out this recent edit of Franky Morales, Daniel Breuer and many more to get a feel of what Woodward has to offer:
Be-Mag wants to remind its readers that, at this point in time, it isn’t completely certain that there will be a Camp Woodward Europe. Although highly likely, the final decision will be made by the city council of Lenggries somewhere between the 17th and the end of January 2011.