The Bay: PHASE 2 kickflips the gap between Lincoln’s youth and music | Feature Story

[This feature story previews The Bay’s weekend relaunch concerts Saturday, June 25 and Sunday June 26. For concert lineups and a list of events, RSVP here.]

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It’s early, but it is already shaping up to be a busy Tuesday morning in the old warehouse turned skatepark in South Central Lincoln. The sun shines through the familiar garage doors onto a series of half-pipes, rails and boxes. Its light bounces off the chairs made of old skateboard decks and the smooth concrete floors. The sound of cars parking, people talking and a dog barking lingers in the empty air of the skatepark.

Down the hall of what used to be the edge of The BAY skatepark in Lincoln sits a new door. Through that door on this particular busy morning stands Shayne Pearson, programming director for The BAY, and some of his coworkers; they are tinkering with a state-of-the-art cold-brew nitrous coffee tap. The bar they stand behind is fitted with a variety of other machines standard in any premium coffee shop: cappuccino machines, large coffee drips, ice makers.

The bar sits in what is a newly finished addition to The BAY and what is internally referred to as PHASE 2. While The BAY has been working to build communities between young and at-risk people through skateboarding for years, the new expansion represents new territory for the young organization. The space, which is large, open with high ceilings and concrete floors and decorated with unique and local art, features modern-styled homemade wood tables, chairs and booths. Quick to draw the eye in the new space, however, is not the coffee shop – it is the full-sized stage stocked with sound and lighting equipment.  

This weekend will mark the grand opening kick-off of the re-vamped venue. The BAY Cafe will host 11 bands this Friday through Sunday. Guests will be able to enjoy coffee and other drinks from the cafe while a variety of local acts play the new hardwood stage. Above all, the event will showcase the capabilities of the new, unique space.

PHASE 2 is set to be the newest coffee shop and music venue in Lincoln, Pearson says. The combination of skatepark, coffee shop, and all-ages music venue is as important to the BAY as it is unique.

“The push at The BAY has always been connecting with young people, specifically young people that are in subculture groups,” says Pearson, who is finishing a Master of Social Work at the University of Nebraska. “In Lincoln, there is a disconnect in the music community between the established groups and young people looking to put their foot in the door. We are hoping to provide that opportunity to them.”

The BAY Cafe will host shows on every Saturday night, Pearson says. On Friday nights, there will be open mic nights for young people to perform for one another and have a platform to branch out.

“Skateboarding, music, and art coincide in so many ways, so it’s been an idea from day one that we wanted to provide a platform for those things to be more accessible, especially to those kids that don’t have those opportunities typically,” Pearson says.

The Cafe will open full-time in mid to late July, which is also when weekly shows will start. The emphasis is on bringing in and showcasing new and local talents, but the venue will also look to book touring bands, Pearson says.

Pearson says that while the BAY’s teenage regulars scream for an A$AP Rocky show, the new venue will look to book an eclectic array of rock, jazz, hip-hop and more. Above all, the new stage will be a place for young adults to interact with one another, have a stepping stone into the Nebraska music scene and get a chance to see performances from a variety of different genres.

“It’s about creating a platform for people to get to know each other and build those relationships because different perspectives breed understanding and lead to change,” Pearson says.

PHASE 2 will also offer more tangible means for outreach. The Cafe coffee bar will provide job training for young people, and a resource room off of the venue will be open to outside community programming like Americorps summer camps and life skills classes. It will feature a supply hub for people under 25 to find food, hygiene products, case evaluations and referrals to treatment among other social-work services.

The BAY, which was created by Skate For Change founder Mike Smith, has always put an emphasis on social justice and youth outreach. Skate For Change, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that works to deliver supplies to people experiencing homelessness, has harnessed the powers of young people and collective identity to provide support to communities all over the world. The BAY has for years provided a safe space for kids of all backgrounds to come together.

“This whole place has got two sides to it,” Pearson says. “Everyone here is a social worker at heart. It’s built into everything.”

Ultimately, Pearson wants the newest addition to the fast-growing BAY operation to be a place for young Nebraskans to make memories and find footing in shared subcultures.

“I look back at some of the places in my experiences and see so many memories connected to it,” Pearson says as he admires the new stage. “I can look back and see my stepping stones. I hope people can look back at PHASE 2 and find that.”