BIG SANDY — Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament thought there should be something for kids to do besides school sports in his tiny Montana home town.
So the skateboarding enthusiast picked up the $40,000 tab for a new skate park in Big Sandy.
After three weeks of welding forms and smoothing concrete, the park was finished Tuesday night. Ament, 47, was up just minutes after sunrise Wednesday to give it a spin.
It was a far cry from the 25-foot-long ramp he and his father built for him to skate on when he was a teen.
"My dad helped me build ramps," Ament told the Great Falls Tribune, "now I can give kids around here something else to do."
Ament, who lives in Missoula and Seattle, has helped fund skate parks in towns in Montana and Washington. He was a major force behind Missoula's Mobash Skatepark, convincing Pearl Jam to donate money and attending meetings with city planners.
"I must have gone to 40 meetings in four years before they even started building," Ament said.
For the Big Sandy project, he contacted former classmate and friend Daren Schuster, who was the mayor at the time, and "he said 'yes.'"
The skate arena was built by Grindline Skatepark Inc., which has built more than 100 parks around the world, including Missoula and Great Falls.
Because Ament had worked with Grindline before and because the town was willing to wait until the end of the construction season, the Seattle-based company cut costs.
"The town has been nothing but supportive," said project foreman and skate park designer Randy Hanford. "It's been fun."
Schuster said he expects lots of kids to be asking for skateboards.
"I might go to town and buy some bubble wrap and a football helmet and give it a try myself," he said.
Ament said he plans to buy a few skateboards, helmets and pads to keep on hand for kids that don't have them. And next spring he said he plans to bring some friends who are professional skateboarders to town to put on a show.