Levin dips far into his childhood to recall how he got involved in
Around him, the
roar of stoked skaters makes for a constant echo throughout his
cavernous Four Seasons Skatepark.
Deep in the
Menomonee Valley, there are no posers here. These kids are serious.
And good. They swoop along the three mini-ramps, the deep clover bowl
and a new 10,000-plus-square-foot outside course.
building is 22,000 square feet, built in 1903 and housing various
tenants over the generations. It took Levinís 15-person team working
daily for two months to get the park built and up and running.
"It was a ton of work, but worth it," enthuses Levin, who is
also involved in another work-in-progress skateboard project in Bay
"One of my
childhood friends came to my house on a skateboard. I was 12 years old
in 1983. I thought it looked so cool as he skated up to my parentsí
house," recalls Levin. "I asked him if I could give it a try
and I havenít stopped riding since."
He laughs at the
fact that todayís boarders seem to be getting younger and younger
when they first start. "They seem to be totally into it and eager
to learn new tricks," he observes from his vantage point of
Even as Levin
began his early career in the sport, his parents were super-supportive
and let him take over the backyard and basement with skateboard ramps.
They even backed his decision at age 17 to spend the summer teaching
at a skate camp at Visalia, Calif.
As his skills
grew while still a student at Homestead High School in Mequon, Levin
attracted sponsors. The first was Screaming Tuna, an iconic Milwaukee
skate shop, followed by Electric Ocean Clothing, H Street Skateboards
and Gullwing Trucks. "I never got financial support from them,
just in the form of products and gear. It was rare at the time to get
paid to skateboard," he says.
Nor did a scout
or agent find him. "I would send them VHS videos of me skating
and photos in hopes of sponsorship. The owner of Screaming Tuna helped
me out a ton in the beginning. The skateboard companies would look to
local skate shops to find talent," he adds.
there, he went on to help found Rewind in 1993, a streetwear and
outerwear company marketed towards skateboarders, BMXers and
snowboarders. He linked up with a Canadian company of the same name
and settled in Montreal to handle design and promotion. But in 1998,
Levin decided to move on and try something new. "I always had a
love and passion for skateboarding, so that is when I decided to move
back home and open an indoor skatepark," he says.
But being a
boarder didnít fit the typical business mold that bankers could
understand when Levin decided to renovate his historic structure,
especially since there wasnít a blueprint for a skate park in 1999.
But he received a grant from the Milwaukee County Parks to help open
his Milwaukee location. Eventually, Four Seasons has received
extensive additional support from local businesses and city officials.
Four Seasons is easy in these days of social media. It has a large
Facebook following and an extensive website
(4seasonssk8park.wordpress.com). Word-of-mouth is also important, as
are flyers distributed to local retail shops. Most of Four Seasonsí
clientele is from Milwaukee and nearby cities. But many participants
are from Illinois and other surrounding states, contributing to the
more than 20,000 riders at Four Seasons over the course of a year.
attracts kids of all ages, Levin indicates, saying some of the younger
ones are typically more fearless.
For Levin, the
financial challenge is always there, but heís learned to deal with
that issue through years of hard work and lots of trial and error.
"I love what I do though, so Iím always determined and
dedicated to make it work," he says.
wears a lot of hats in his position: manager, adviser, instructor,
friend and advocate. His typical day could go like this: Levin teaches
skate lessons in the morning, designs a T-shirt in the afternoon,
later builds a ramp and then sells something in the pro-shop in the
evening. But, of course, no day is typical.
He praises his
four-person staff, led by manager Jeff Gozdowiak. "Having him at
the park is a crucial part of the success of my business. He takes a
lot of stress and pressure off of me," Levin says.
For Levin, there
are three important things to keep in mind while working with kids
interested in such "extreme" sports as BMX/skateboarding.
First is patience with the youngsters, especially with instruction and
teaching them how to ride. Next is safety, so parents feel comfortable
dropping off their kids. Finally, friendliness is paramount. "I
want the kids to feel like Four Seasons is home," Levin says.
can be a rough-tough sport, bruises are inevitable. Levin himself has
had a few bad injuries, including a broken ankle and broken leg. Four
Seasons requires helmets and recommends knee and elbow pads. "I
strongly believe kids progress much faster when wearing the proper
protective gear," he says, indicating that he still skates at
least once a week. "I try to keep up with the younger kids. They
keep me motivated and feeling younger," says Levin, 40.
He and his wife,
Jessie, have two sons. Both Gavin, 4, and Ethan, 2, love their dadís
chosen sport. When not boarding himself, Levin loves to be surfing on
the future is bright," says Levin. "There are a lot of young
kids that are into it. My hope is they stick with it. Right now, we
are seeing the popularity of longboards and scooters on the
exciting thing for Levin is watching the Four Seasonsí clientele
grow and become confident with themselves and their riding, as well as
watching some of the guys making a living out of their avocation.
great to have been able to provide a place for them to practice and
compete," he says. "It takes a lot of dedication and years
of hard work to become a pro these days. We are always changing up our
park. Every three months we make at least one major change. Change is
necessary to keep you current."