The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 1, 2014

Update: Mankato skate park burns down (video)

(Continued)

MANKATO —

Nikki Mason, mother of 13-year-old skater Taylor Mason, said the loss of the park was heart breaking.

"This is his social circle," she said. "He's here every day it's open."

Just where they'll be able to go now to skate is unknown. But thought is already being given to rebuilding.

John Kind, CEO of the Mankato Family YMCA (which operates Chesley Roller Sport Park), said moments after learning fire had claimed the park, he was on the phone to Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth. The two decided to act immediately and called an emergency meeting of the YMCA's executive committee.

Kind didn't want to say definitively that they would rebuild, but he said that's what he hopes will happen, and he will approach the coming discussions with that in mind.

The skate park, in addition to meaning a lot to the kids who use it, means a lot to Kind.

Betty Chesley was the driving force behind the building of the park. During her life in Mankato she was quite philanthropic. But perhaps her most visible contribution was funding the skate park.

While living in California she noticed the proliferation of skate parks. She watched the skateboarding kids get better and better and marveled at their athleticism. Why, she wondered, shouldn't these kids get the same financial treatment kids in more mainstream sports get?

So she built it. And they came.

Kind visited Chesley weekly until her death a few years ago, and ever since his first days as CEO of the Y he's been a champion for the skate park and the kids who use it.

He was helping his daughter move into a new apartment not far from the skate park when he noticed smoke in the sky. Moments later, his phone rang.

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