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Louisville developers plan underground bike park

Published August 22, 2014
Jim Lowry (left), his wife Kathy, with Sharon Tyler, Tom’s wife.
100-acre facility sits under the Louisville Zoo near the airport.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.  (BRAIN) — Jim Lowry and Tom Tyler’s proposal for an underground mountain bike park is a one-of-a-kind venture. And IMBA is embracing it with open arms.

Once completed, it will be a 320,000-square-foot park and pump track that’s some 75 feet underground built inside a 4 million-square-foot limestone quarry directly underneath the city of Louisville, Kentucky. That’s equivalent to about 100 acres of land.

The Louisville Zoo sits atop part of the old quarry along with a Kmart, Wendy’s and assorted other businesses. All 10 lanes of I-264 cross over it and from any of the four entrances it’s about a five-minute drive to the airport.

Lowry, 64, and Tyler, 65, have set up a tent near the demo area at the base of Steamboat Springs ski resort. And a steady stream of IMBA delegates, attending IMBA’s biennial World Summit, stop by to ask about the park. As Lowry and Tyler enjoy pointing out, their venture will be the only underground bike park in the world.

Mark Eller, IMBA’s communications director, said the men’s plans are well underway. “At IMBA we get to hear about all kinds of plans for bike facilities. This one was a new one for me. But it seems like they’re doing a good job of researching the project,” Eller said. 

If all goes as planned, the park would open Jan. 1, 2015, said Lowry. And it appears all is going as planned. The men have been meeting with various bicycle companies about a rental fleet. They are also looking at e-powered fat bikes that could be used to tour some 17 miles of underground passages. And Lowry will be at Interbike to learn more about the bike business.

Neither he nor his partner ride bikes and were amazed at the bikes on display at the demo. Both met with staff at Currie Technologies and were surprised at the technology found on e-bikes.

The bike park would add another playground to what is dubbed the Mega Caverns of Louisville. The pair run a zip-line park, a ropes challenge course, conduct historic tram tours, offer an event facility that’s 100 feet underground, and then there’s the Mega Cavern Christmas Lights under Louisville.

The underground quarry is so large that last year, over a 48-day period, 38,000 cars were driven through what would approximate an above ground Christmas Tree Lane. Each driver paid $25, spent 30 minutes driving through some of the 17 miles of passageways to view 850 different Christmas themes and characters strung together by more than 2 million LED lights. Seven different sound systems play Christmas music as drivers make their way through the cavern.

Tyler said the Christmas program is now in its eighth year and there’s a three-hour wait some nights during the holiday season. “It’s a hell of business,” he said with a beaming smile.

The massive cavern dates back to the 1930s when limestone was mined for road construction. It finally closed in the 1970s. During the Cuban Missile Crisis it was viewed as a potential bomb shelter for up to 50,000 people.

Neither men had ever heard of bike parks until a young man called 12 weeks ago to ask if he could rent 80,000 square feet of space. Lowry asked him what his plans were and soon discovered that he lacked the financing. They struck deal and he now works for Lowry and Tyler.

In the meantime, he contacted IMBA and Andy Williamson, IMBA’s Great Lakes Regional Director, came out to see the caverns. He saw the potential and has been a proponent of the development, Eller said.

As word got around thanks to postings on IMBA’s website, the men have been inundated with emails and queries. “We’ve been surprised by how much interest there is in Europe. People there want to know when it’s going to open — they want to come see it,” Lowry said.

 

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