Have you ever looked at a big empty space – something like an abandoned department store – and dreamt of putting something unique and awesome in there?
A group from the North Shore is putting that exact plan into place in North Vancouver, confirming plans to build Canada’s largest indoor mountain bike park inside the former Sears store at Capilano Mall.
A mountain bike facility makes perfect sense for this location, said Mike Upton, the founder of West Coast Bike Parks Ltd.
“If you’re in North Vancouver, what else do you do?” he said with a laugh. “This is ground zero for popular mountain biking – downhill, freeride, cross country – this is really where it all began. It’s recognized worldwide as such, the place where mountain biking in its current form started.”
The project is very much a community effort, said Upton, adding that all of the investors are from the North Shore, as are the terrain builders who will be creating the indoor park.
“A lot of people who still live on the North Shore were the mountain biking originals and got the whole thing rolling, and some of them are involved [in this project],” he said. “Some of the founders of what became known as downhill or free riding … that makes up a good portion of the people who are involved.”
The initial design includes 65,000 square feet of indoor space in the bottom floor of the old Sears store, with bike-friendly access from the mall’s underground parking garage. They are doing major renovation work on the space, said Upton, tearing out all the walls and storage spaces to make an open concept park.
“It’s not going to really resemble Sears anymore, other than that you can see where the escalators were and you can still access the mall and get to the food court,” he said. The terrain will be designed for mountain bikes but will be rideable for BMX bikes as well.
“It’s all wooden structures. It’s a lot of flow. It’s a lot of jumping and pumping,” said Upton. “You’re indoors, so you’re not riding down a hill. But there is elevation, there is the opportunity to do some jumping, do a lot of flow and technical. It’s closely representative of what you might ride on the North Shore mountains, anywhere between here and Whistler. … There’s nothing nearly as aggressive as, you know, trying to navigate the black runs at Whistler Bike Park or even on Fromme, this will not go to that level, but it will nevertheless be fun for any rider who’s got that skill.”
There are a couple of similar bike parks in Canada, including Joyride 150 in Markham, Ont., and BLine Indoor Bike Park in Calgary, Alta., although both cater more to BMX riders, said Upton, adding that the closest comparison is likely a facility called Rays MTB Park in Ohio.
Endless Biking, a well-known North Shore company, will be involved in the creation of the park and will ensure terrain is suitable for all levels, said Upton.
“There’s a lot of progression, and we are literally starting with preschool,” he said. “We’re making sure that it is entirely accessible by the smallest riders in our community. … This is really meant for the lower levels, for everything from preschool to what we would call a strong intermediate or maybe an advanced rider."
There will also be regular programming offered, including lessons, birthday parties, casual riding clubs and theme nights, workshops, seminars and more, said Upton. West Coast Bike Parks will also control the second floor of the old Sears building, and is currently planning to offer it to Family Services North Shore to use for their programming. There will also be rental bikes and equipment available onsite.
In 2019, the managers of Capilano Mall said they are planning for redevelopment of the 1960s-era mall. But the bike park is meant to be a permanent, long-term project, said Upton.
“We’d like to be involved in whatever happens at that location in the future,” he said, adding the goal is to be open for business in February 2023.