The track, which got its start in 1986, will celebrate Aug. 6 with a special race day and plenty of fun. Something of which the park has come to be known for as one of the somehow still-hidden gems in Warsaw.
Hire Park got its start as the vision of Jerry Landrum, who enjoyed BMX but wanted someplace local to go as Warsaw didn’t have anything resembling BMX as the sport was really just getting its footing in the United States in the mid-1980s. Landrum, with the help of three other visionaries from Fort Wayne, got the original Hire Park constructed and open in July of 1986. The original hill, where the observation tower and second turn are today, along with the twin trees, are the vintage skeletons that remain.
“It was something I thought would be a good thing for Warsaw, so I started talking with Mayor (Jeff) Plank, and he was very helpful with it,” Landrum said. “They had land on Arthur Street and originally thought this might serve as a multi-sport park.”
Landrum and friends helped carry the park into the 1990s, where current track caretaker, Dan Rumple, came aboard. Rumple, who has now become the face of Hire Park, got started much like Landrum did with his love of BMX and wanting to find somewhere local to ride.
What has become of the track today is a melding of visions of both Landrum and Rumple, plenty of legwork from the thousands who have ridden there, as well as the next generation of riders who will also call the park home.
“I used to camp at Pike Lake and saw this place,” stated Jason Coleman. “I went out and bought a bike a week later started coming here. Been here 30 years.”
“This was the first track I ever rode, 20 years ago,” added Drew Shellenbarger. “Dan always comes up big for us, and brings a lot of good vibes. It’s part of the reason I brought my son here. It’s pretty cool to see the second generation riding where I grew up riding. The track’s just rad. Always has been.”
Shellenbarger, Landrum and so many others echo similar sentiments about Rumple, and about Hire Park as a whole. The track has been a constant work in progress, with the noticeable additions of the starting hill, work on the embankments for the turns, and even just maintaining the grounds and guts of the track. It doesn’t clean itself, and rain isn’t necessarily a BMX fan, as Rumple has joked over the years.
“I can see the progression, but we are always trying to take it to the next level,” Rumple said during a recent practice night. As someone who does it all for the track, he also fielded questions simultaneously about T-shirts, birthday parties and bike part replacement issues from a throng of parents with their own agendas. “What I love about this place is that the people are what keep it going. We can have elite pros here, who are using the same track as little kids on striders. It’s just as much fun.
“Those kids graduate to pedal bikes, and how afraid they were of that giant hill (pointing to the first 32-meter launch) are now the ones on pedals hustling back up the starting hill. Really neat to see.”
Rumple has been with Hire Park for 19 years, and has been part of the brethren of bringing his kids through. His oldest son, Danny, has become quite the trick specialist on the pipes, and two of his three other children have also spent considerable time on the course.
Hire Park has been home to nearly a half-dozen nationals as well as state championships, camps and even just a stop on the tour for professionals looking for a place to ride. Helped in 2004 by a 501C3 status, Hire Park has been helped by the city of Warsaw expand via grants and a long-awaited budget.
Rumple only sees the park getting bigger.
“The best is yet to come,” Rumple said. “I’m always weighing on what keeps you here. Are the parents having a good time? They really are our exposure. Are we family friendly, but competitive? Can the kids enjoy it as much as the pros?
“I’m tossing that around all the time. When the gates drop, it’s (go time). But when they’re done, it’s hi fives and hey, great race, man.
“This is just crazy. 30 years. It’s really like watching your children grow up.”