Kelly McGarry

Mega Cavern Bike Park: You Dig

underground article

We were just as excited as everyone else when we heard about an underground bike park being built. Our minds exploded with questions. As luck would have it, we were about to start our trek back to the west coast after an awesome summer of touring bike parks in the northeast. Louisville was actually on our route back home. So, we packed up the rig and started another road-trip from Richmond-Virginia to Louisville-Kentucky for a one-on-one chat with, Jim Lowry, part owner of the Mega Cavern. We arrived at the caves and met Jim. He promptly stated that he may not have all the answers, but we found him chock-full-O’ details to tell about this unique place. We hopped in his van and he drove us around the underground world and gave us an in-depth story about the former limestone quarry. You will be shocked to find out what is stored in this cavern and the plans for the bike park.

(Putting lights up in the cavern where part of the bike park will be.)

First off, a little history lesson…the quarry was mined for 42 years, on a 24-hour-a- day basis. It was the largest, most productive mine in all of Louisville from 1930 to 1972. Its location is dead center in the metropolitan area of Louisville; no one would ever know this while walking and shopping on the streets above. There are 223 limestone pillars that hold up the celling of the Mega Cavern. Each pillar is 26ft thick and composed of solid limestone...the hardest limestone in the U.S. You could stack every single building in Louisville on top of one another and the celling would not crack because it is rated for 60,000 psi! It’s as close to granite as you can get and is virtually impossible to break. For a real world comparison, the concrete that you drive across when you drive across a bridge is rated for 5,000psi, Jim points out.

The quarry was the largest civil defense shelter during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. In the event of an attack there was a secret list of which very few people knew about. This list included all the important people who should be allowed shelter first. This list included all dignitaries in the state and in the region, all the soldiers at Fort Knox, all the doctors, the hospital officials, the governor, the senators, and the House of Representatives. It was provisioned to support 50,000 thousand people living there for an extended period of time.

When Jim and his partners purchased the quarry, they originally wanted to use the space and create warehouses for businesses. It took 12 years to get permits in order for them to start with the plans. Once things were organized and they were finally allowed to start construction, they connected the columns together with walls. Now, entire businesses operate out of the caves! There are also multiple companies that use the warehouses as storage. Here are a few for example of what these caves keep at a cool 58 degrees:

-PODs moving containers.

-Museum Artifacts Storage

-Warner Brothers (archive film storage including the original Gone with The Wind,

   Star Wars, Dark Knight, and all the Johnny Carson shows for example) There’s over

   300 million dollars worth of archive film is in there…Wow!

-Exotic Hard Woods stored for Rolls-Royce, BMW, and Cessna airplanes.

-The department of homeland security has emergency supplies stored in the cavern

   for the state of Kentucky and the entire region.

-Locals appliance storage.

-There is guy who makes concrete floor tile in the cavern.

-15,000,000 million dollars worth of road salt.

Jim explained, since the news broke about the underground bike park, he and Joe Prisel (trail builder and owner of Burlington Bike Park in Washington) have received hundred of emails and phone calls with questions about the bike park. One of the most asked questions is “how do [they] process air?” Jim points at two very large 12ft-diameter fans. Each one of the fans moves 360,000cfm…Jim laughs and says, “that’s extreme air movement!”

Jim showed us where the “ bike-school (skills area), pump track and jump park” will spread across 30,000 square feet. Ultimately, they plan to build 40 “cave-bike” trails that will weave throughout the cavern with a focus on Progression. He also explained to us that they are planning to put in a Via-Ferrata course in the same location. People will also be Zip-Lining over this area. They have a very popular zip-line course that they plan to expand over the parts of the bike park. However, most of the additions above, will take place during the second phase of bike park development.

(The zip-lines are pretty awesome!)

Jim has been told that once the bike park is built, “Louisville will be one of the few, if not the only, major city in the U.S. that has over 100 miles of mountain biking trails.” The trails will span 320,000 square feet underground. There are 17miles of passageways underground, where there will be plenty of room for expansion for not just the bike park but also the Mega Tram that takes people on a tour of the caverns.

(Mega Quest ropes challenge course)

They seem to have scored big at Mega Cavern with 7 record years in a row of both revenue and profit! The year 2014 is off the charts and up 47%. Jim says, “we think the reason for our success is the fact that we are a family-friendly place that offers great activities for all ages at a very good price-point.” Grandma can take the tram tour, while the kids, adults and parents hit-up the ropes course, zip-line and…come January 1st 2015, the one of a kind BIKE PARK will open!!

(Jim shows Natty the bike park plans)

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