New Fargo indoor skateboard park hopes to get rolling with Giving Hearts Day

New facility would be the only indoor park in North Dakota.

A skater gets air at the Hawks Nest half pipe.
Scott Ahler / contributed

FARGO — At last summer’s TEDxFargo Tom Kemmer told the crowd how his life changed at age 12 . That’s when he got his first skateboard. That’s when you could find him trying to figure out tricks in front of his north Fargo home.

“It wasn’t just my body going in circles, it was my life,” he told the crowd. “I’m Tom Kemmer. I’m a skateboarder, a father, a carpenter, musician and a continuous failure. And skateboarding saved my life.”

Kemmer, now 46, is looking to pay that forward and get more kids involved in skating. He founded the nonprofit North Dakota Skateboarding Association and with help from donors during Giving Hearts Day is hoping to build a new public indoor skate park.

The North Dakota Skateboarding Association is there to facilitate skateboarding for the community to show the positive social, physical and mental health benefits of the sport,” he says.

He says this while overlooking the action at the Hawk’s Nest, a small north Fargo warehouse he’s filled with ramps and other attractions for skaters.


It’s a Wednesday night in January, so that means things are constantly moving. Every Wednesday is open skate from 6 to 9 p.m. Skaters can ride the ramps for $10. By 7 p.m. there are about 12 shredders taking turns, ranging from a 13-year-old to dudes in their 20s. By the end of the night that number will double.

The Hawk’s Nest started out in 2011 as a club where members could pay a fee, get a key and skate at will. The space evolved, organizers started hosting concerts inside, which caught the attention of the Fargo Fire Department and in 2017 the space closed.

It didn’t take long for organizers to feel the itch again. Co-founder Ryan Turner built a ramp in his backyard and as friends gathered, they saw their kids take interest in the sport.

The Hawk’s Nest reopened in 2020, but with a different attitude.

“When we brought it back, we built different ramps and we made it more accessible and inclusive. We wanted it to be more of a community space,” Kemmer says from a balcony overlooking the halfpipe. “It’s got more of a family vibe than the original Hawk’s Nest.”

On Mondays, Kemmer hands over the keys to Tayler Krabbenhoft who offers a safe space for women and LGBTQ skaters. He credits her with creating a solid following and being a great instructor for those who might be new to the sport.

Kemmer is also looking to host 14-and-under skate days on Saturday afternoons.

A skater does a trick at the Hawks Nest in Fargo.
Scott Ahler / Fargo

All skaters must sign a waiver before riding and those under 18 need a parent to sign.


The space is cramped and Kemmer and Turner hope they can build enough interest in the NDSA to create a new space and encourage others to try their hand, er, foot at skateboarding.

The new space, run by the NDSA, would also feature one or two paid staffers who could also teach lessons.

“Our goal would be to have a little better curb appeal, maybe a little more structured to provide youth activities,” says Turner, who recently moved to Montana but is still involved in the organization.

“There’s a need for an indoor space,” he adds. “There are so many people that don’t have the means to do anything but sit in front of a screen. Skateboarding is within reach for individuals.”

At his TEDxFargo appearance, Kemmer talked about the benefits of skating to the body, mind and soul. The sport adds strength, balance, imagination and teaches to grow from failure and persevere through injuries.

He cited a university of Southern California study that said 62% of skaters rode to reduce stress.

He pointed to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where suicide is a major problem and said since the recent addition of a skate park, not a single child associated with the program died by suicide.

Eric Smith rides the top of the half pipe at the Hawks Nest.
Scott Ahler / Contributed

Of the 21 most popular sports in the United States, skateboarding is the third cheapest.


“All you need is a board, $150 give or take, and any place with concrete can be your playground,” he said last summer.

His message got the attention of many in the audience, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who chatted with Kemmer at the event.

In mid-January, Kemmer went to Bismarck for an Entrepreneur’s Day, which included a visit to the Governor's Mansion where he talked to Burgum again. He said not only the governor, but many other lawmakers he spoke with on the trip were open to his pitch.

“I will talk to anyone. I will talk to everyone,” Kemmer says. “I want them to know that we are here and what we’re doing and why it matters.”

An indoor park would be the only one in North Dakota and the next closest would be a small one in Brainerd.

A skater does a kickflip at the Hawks Nest.
Scott Ahler / Contributed

Sitting near Kemmer that Wednesday night at the Hawk’s Nest is Derik Borman, watching his son Nick ride the half pipe. He just turned 13 and while he only started skating three years ago he already competes.

“We don’t have anything in winter and a lot of these kids skate year-round,” Derik says of those Nick competes against.

He watches his son take turns and interact with guys at least twice his age.


“All of these older guys look out for him and are very supportive. I wish we had a bigger space. I hope they get what they need,” he says of the NDSA.

In early January Kemmer was hoping to set a match goal of $10,000, but has since upped it to $13,000. Still he is hoping to reach an even bigger number.

“If we walk away with $50,000 raised, I will actively start pursuing a new space,” he says.

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