Underground Bike Park Opens in Louisville's Mega Cavern
Tyler Bohm, 9, straddled his orange bicycle and eyed the trail before him, waiting his turn.
"There's, like, jumps everywhere you look," he said. "I've never seen anything like this in a cave."
Yes, a cave.
On Monday, Bohm was one of nearly 100 cyclists who reserved an opening day pass to ride the new mountain bike park in Louisville's Mega Cavern.
At 350,000 square feet, it is the largest indoor bicycle park in the world, said Alec Zaremba, the park supervisor.
Another feature: Because it's underground, the temperature consistently hovers at bout 50 degrees, said Jim Lowry, who co-owns the cavern.
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Lowry and a small group of investors bought the property in 1989 from a limestone mining company with the intent to open a "high-security business park," he said.
They did just that. Currently, about 12 businesses occupy some 700,000 square feet of space in the cavern. ("Some of which I can tell you about, some of which don’t want to be known," Lowry said.)
But in recent years, the owners have focused on tourism.
A tram has operated in the Mega Cavern since 2009, giving guests tours of the expansive space, he said. More recently, a zipline and ropes course opened.
The park has about 45 trails for riders of every skill level, said Brian Smith, the trail coordinator for KyMBA Louisville, the local chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association.
"This place is truly a place where you can progress from a little kid just starting out, or an adult just starting out, and become a better rider," Smith said.
In a sport such as mountain biking— intimidating at times with big jumps and high speeds—it’s important to have spaces that welcome and encourage younger and less experienced riders, he said.
"Without them we’re not going to have trail-builders, trail-leaders, consumers of tomorrow for our industry and our sport," he said.
That's just what Beckei and Duncan Bassett have in mind.
They took the day Monday to stop by the park and "check it out" before bringing their kids to ride.
"It's a nice trail system," Duncan said. "There's a lot of trails that are good for small kids to ride on—not too challenging for them as they progress in the sport."
More experienced cyclists also feel welcome at the park.
After finishing a ride through some of the park's larger jumps, sending him and his bike as high as 20 feet from the ground, Alex Workman was asked to describe the park.
"A playground," he answered.
The bike park had its "soft opening" on Monday. Daily individual passes start at $24; the park is suggesting reservations for people interested in trying it out.