Ivan Capaul, operations manager of the Freestyle Academy, is in high spirits on the Vert Ramp in the middle of the Big Top at the Prau la Selva sports centre in Flims. This is the new temporary home of the Freestyle Academy for two years. The huge skate ramp is the heart of the circus tent and at the same time Ivan’s favourite place: “From up here you can see everything; the trampolines, the skate bowl, the street skate area and the kids area.”
It all started with a small model made out of cardboard: trampolines, airbags, skate ramps – everything was carefully assembled in miniature on a scale of 1:100 and still hangs by the entrance to the Big Top today. The cardboard model became plans and plans became reality. Of course, it didn’t happen quite that quickly; behind the Freestyle Academy team lies a good 10 weeks of work. On 27 March 2022, before the end of the winter season, the Freestyle Academy closed its doors in the former tennis hall in Laax Murschetg. For Ivan, the dismantling immediately afterwards was a big challenge, especially as four busy months lay behind the team. “At the beginning, no one was aware of exactly what lay ahead of us. But being able to be part of such a unique project motivates us to go full throttle until the reopening,” says Ivan.
One team, many faces
The core team of the Freestyle Academy was joined by other helping, skilled hands from the Weisse Arena Gruppe and some external experts who were only used for certain areas; for example, Oli Bürgin for the skate bowl and the street skate course and Andreas “Schützi” Schützenberger from IOU Ramps for the Vert Ramp . For the substructure of the trampolines, the local carpentry Candrian was called in in cooperation with the carpentry Cahenzli. All the rest is done by the core team itself. Every day, between 10 and 15 people are at work in and around the tent. “The team matches very well. We’ve become a small community, eat lunch and dinner together, get back to work and sit down together again after work. We’ve even had barbecues here in front of the tent,” says Ivan. The good atmosphere is also evident at work: “Everyone can contribute their ideas and we decide together what the best solution is. Of course, it is also important that we use the people where they have their strengths.”
Even more space for freestyle
And how do you fit all these different elements of the Freestyle Academy into a Big Top? “We were able to reinstall all the elements as planned, because the circus tent, with a diameter of 44 metres and a height of 14 metres, offers around 300 square metres more space than the old hall with 1,200 square metres,” says Ivan. In terms of Greenstyle, the goal was to recycle as much material as possible from the old hall, which required very precise planning even during the dismantling of the facilities. “All the partial elements were marked and had to be put back together correctly after dismantling – like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The forwarding by the whole team was top organised right from the start. This made the reassembly much easier,” says Ivan.
A total of 160 cubic metres of wood were used, 100 of which were reused from the old hall. The other 60 cubic metres of wood were mainly needed for the substructure of the trampolines and for the railings. The principle in the hall remains the same: there are different zones for rolling, jumping and acrobatics. During the construction, great care was taken to generate a good flow in the tent. The visitors should be able to move easily and safely between the elements.
What’s new at the Freestyle Academy?
For the youngest visitors under 6 years of age, who do not yet have access to the hall, the team came up with a new solution: “The Kids Area is now integrated into the hall and no longer in a separate room. This way, the smallest kids can look into the hall while they play and romp around in a safe environment,” Ivan tells us. This is not the only innovation: for example, a second fivesquare trampoline has found a place and there are a few new features in the street skate area and at the skate bowl. “Especially in the skate area, the Freestyle Academy has certainly been upgraded compared to the old hall. There are more obstacles and you have more space,” says Ivan enthusiastically and continues: “The Big Top is an upgrade for the entire offer around the Prau la Selva sports centre. With the additional skate elements of the GALAAXY Park, which will be set up in front of the tent, we offer one of the biggest set-ups for skating in Graubünden. I’m already looking forward to Team Trouble event. A skate contest in a Big Top – how cool is that?!” Ivan enthuses.
Freestyle meets circus
The first important milestone for Ivan was the raising of the Big Top. This was done within only half a day by the experienced team of the National Circus Knie. The tent was up, the dismantling of the facilities in Laax and the subsequent erection in Flims could begin. Soon Ivan was standing in the empty hall in Laax Murschetg: “There was definitely a bit of melancholy after 12 years,” he recalls. But the anticipation of running the Freestyle Academy in the circus tent outweighs it all. “The combination of freestyle and circus is actually quite obvious and is simply fun,” says Ivan. The Knie family also saw it that way. Otherwise, the national circus would hardly have agreed to give us their old Big Top.
Circus ring free for all
When asked why people have to visit the Freestyle Academy in Prau la Selva, Ivan says: “You simply have to experience the feeling. I can still remember my first visit to the circus – that special atmosphere, the artists, the smells. Back then it just smelled a bit more of animals,” Ivan laughs and continues: “Now our visitors get the chance to stand in the ring themselves.”
On Saturday, 25 June 2022, the Freestyle Academy in Prau la Selva will celebrate its reopening. Visitors can expect an action-packed day with sporting activities, concerts and entertainment in and around the Big Top and in the Prau la Selva sports centre. Ivan is sure: “It will be a huge party. We are looking forward to seeing amazed faces, because what has been created here is much more than “just” a provisional solution.”
More info on the opening here: laax.com/fsa-opening