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Old Homewood warehouse to become bike park

| Monday, May 7, 2012, 11:58 p.m.
Harry Geyer, 39, of Lawrenceville on Monday, May 7, 2012, tests a ramp in The Wheel Mill -- the state's first indoor bike park, which he is constructing in an 80,000-square-foot warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Harry Geyer, 39, of Lawrenceville on Monday, May 7, 2012, tests a ramp in The Wheel Mill -- the state's first indoor bike park, which he is constructing in an 80,000-square-foot warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Harry Geyer of Lawrenceville is building the state's first indoor bike park in this 80,000 square foot warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. Geyer is shown at the planned facility on Monday, May 7, 2012.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Harry Geyer of Lawrenceville is building the state's first indoor bike park in this 80,000 square foot warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. Geyer is shown at the planned facility on Monday, May 7, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Harry Geyer has put the wheels in motion to recycle a Homewood warehouse into an indoor playground for bicyclists.

Construction is under way on The Wheel Mill, an 80,000-square-foot indoor bike park on Hamilton Avenue that will include mountain biking trails, a BMX trick park, an area for beginners, a spin class area, lounge and -- if space permits -- a velodrome, or cycling track. The building formerly housed Linett Co. Inc., a metal fabrication company.

"Our business model is part amusement park, part ski resort and part fitness club," said Geyer, 39, of Lawrenceville. "You don't have to have any skill, and you can't do it anywhere else. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Geyer, owner of Geyer Construction, a salvage lumber and restoration company in Lawrenceville, is renting the building from owner Howard Berger. He's unsure of the exact cost to transform the space, but said he has a profitable business plan.

"We want to be here for the long term, so it needs to be financially stable. It's not the next iPhone app or the next 'dot com' boom, but I have it figured out to be stable and long-term," he said.

Geyer borrowed the idea from Ray's MTB Indoor Park, the nation's first indoor bike park, which opened in Cleveland in 2004. Twenty-thousand people visited Ray's in 2010. The company, whose original owner sold to Trek Bicycle, one of the nation's largest bicycle manufacturers, added a location in Milwaukee later that year.

"I was immediately hooked, and pretty much like everybody else we all went back to our respective towns and said, 'How do we get this in our own hometowns?' " Geyer said. He spent five years looking for a building and hopes to open at least part of the park by the end of the year, he said.

Bicycle enthusiasts said The Wheel Mill, which would be the first in the state, is "a big deal."

"It's great for the city, great for the bike scene here," said Eric Boerer, advocacy director at Bike Pittsburgh, a Lawrenceville-based advocacy group. "Anything like that, that is going to get people on bikes, is a good thing."

Pittsburgh, with its rugged terrain and bountiful parks, is a destination for avid bicyclists, Boerer said. The indoor bike park will help make the city a year-round destination. The building will be kept at about 50 degrees throughout the winter.

"I think people are realizing, especially in the rust belt, that there's so much unused space that can be used for new and innovative things," said Eric McKeegan, tech editor of the Indiana Township-based Dirt Rag Magazine, a mountain biking publication, and its sister magazine, Bicycle Times, which appeals to street bicyclists.

"Some of it is going to come down to how it's set up, but there is a surprisingly large and involved mountain bike community in Pittsburgh, so I have high hopes of what's going to happen here," McKeegan said.

Geyer plans to use as much salvaged wood from his construction business as is safely possible. He said the park will offer seasonal, weekend and daily passes and bicycles for rent. Ray's charges $300 for a season pass; $20 per weekday; $25 for a weekend day; and bike rentals start at $14.

"You can be as goofy as you want or practice your next trick," Geyer said.


A first for the 'Burgh

The Wheel Mill, Pittsburgh's 80,000-square-foot indoor bike park set to open this winter, would be the fifth such venue in the country and the first in Pennsylvania:

Cleveland: Ray's MTB Indoor Park, 120,000 square feet, open since 2004

Milwaukee: Ray's MTB Indoor Park, 93,000 square feet, open since 2010

Portland: The Lumberyard, 40,000 square feet, opening this summer

Syracuse: CranX Indoor and Outdoor Bike and Sports Park, 90,000 square feet, open since February

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