Making a splash: the rapid rise and fall of a BMX biker's nirvana

A disused swimming pool in which Nike built a top circuit has briefly passed into legend

From outside it is hard to conceive that the tatty redbrick structure surrounded by building works and ugly tower blocks on the outskirts of London could be considered nirvana. But inside this old communal pool countless BMX enthusiasts are in seventh heaven, spinning through the air, performing dramatic Tail Whips, Bar Spins and Icepick Grinds.

In four short weeks "The Pool" in Dagenham, Essex, has become legendary in the sport, attracting devotees from far and wide. But its meteoric rise is matched only by its sudden demise. On Sunday, it is to be torn down. "Someone yesterday said he had a friend in America who phoned to say he was trying to get a flight over for Thursday so he could get here before it closes," explained Matt Paine, a 22-year-old rider.

The BMX park was the brainchild of the sports giant Nike, which approached Barking and Dagenham Council for space to build a sports park. The authority, about to demolish its 1970s swimming pool to create a car park for a new leisure centre next door, offered up the site for a month.

Pouring hundreds of thousands into the project, Nike went to town. A top designer, Dave Sowerby, was called in, and in 16 days the water was drained and a BMX circuit of ramps and jumps constructed. To launch the project, Nike flew in the world's top international freestyle competitors for an "opening jam".

"When the pros walked in, it was like seeing kids walking into a candy shop," explained Glenn Woods, who manages it for Urb Orbis. "Instantly they were talking of what lines they could take, how they could ride it."

Within days, the indoor park was attracting enthusiasts from across the UK. "Ask anybody in BMX, The Pool was instantly legendary. I have ridden pretty much the best parks in the world and it is definitely up there," said Jon Taylor, of Seventies, a BMX distributor. Zac Williams, an old hand at the sport at 19, had driven down from Liverpool that morning. "The Pool is a piece of history," he said. "I would love to live closer. It is just a waste to rip it down to make a car park."

But, more crucially, the centre has become a focus for local youngsters, offering a free facility, including BMX bikes and tuition, to schools and community centres. Fans say it is safer than outdoor parks because it is strictly regulated. More than 4,000 people have passed through its doors since it opened on 16 May, peaking at 300 a day at half-term. "For the parents, it is something their kids can do to keep them off the streets," added Mr Woods.

Mr Paine, who remembers swimming there as a child, has spent the past few weeks as an instructor, passing on his experience to local children, watching them come in full of bravado and slowly learning to jump the ramps. "It is so mad," he said. "I came for the competition the first day and to see it transformed, from what it used to be when I would jump off the diving board to this, was amazing. Most of the kids are really, really happy to get the chance to do it.

"At least half of each group leaves, wanting to get their own bikes. Some friends of mine set up a Save The Nike Pool Facebook group and had 2,000 friends in 24 hours. There are more than 3,000 now. Everybody is going to feel like they have lost something."

A spokesman for the council said it could not afford to run the centre permanently, and the new leisure centre needed a car park, but the authority was committed with Nike to providing "a lasting BMX legacy for young people in the local area long after The Pool project has ended".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie has made the top spot after a strong Glastonbury performance
musicAnd what's more it's the last Sunday night chart topper - ever!
News
news
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Chris Moyles who claimed to be a second-hand car dealer in a bid to save up to £1 million in tax, a tribunal has found
radio
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate