A crowd gathered just outside Rock Hill Saturday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the SouthTown Wake Park,York County and the surrounding Charlotte area's only cable wake board park.
But the park is about more than catching wakes and adrenaline — at the center of the park is faith and ministry.
Tyler Holloman, 25, has been wake boarding since he was 10.
When he was 15 attending Clover High School, he got involved with SouthTown Riders, a wake board youth group based in the Charlotte area.
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"I just started getting more and more involved," he said.
He said he came back to be an instructor at the group's camp every summer during college and is now an instructor at SouthTown Riders.
"He spends more time on the water than he does the land," Tyler's mom Debra said.
Beth Ellis, one of the wake park owners, said she and husband Jack got involved in SouthTown Riders when their youngest son joined.
Then, on a trip with the youth group to a cable wake park, Ellis said her husband came home gushing.
"He came home saying it was the best thing he'd ever seen — and why isn't there one around here?" she said.
She said the couple, along with SouthTown Riders founder Danny Tolentino and others, immediately started planning.
Ellis said the park has found a lot of support from Rock Hill and York County officials as a destination that could drive tourism.
N.C. Rep. Andy Dulin, R-Mecklenburg, told the crowd he is a big fan.
"This is pretty cool," Dulin said Saturday. "I'm sad I can't get one up in North Carolina. This is great. My take on this is togetherness and friendship and outside."
When plans for the park were announced, neighbors of the proposed Rambo Road wake park complained the county didn't take public comment on the plan before approving it.
But the Saturday morning crowd had nothing but praise for the park.
"It's like a dream come true," Ellis said. "We've been thinking about this 24 hours a day for the past two years. We wanted to be like a farm; we wanted people to be out in the country and come and have time together and just to learn something new — kind of push yourself a little outside your comfort zone. But also just a time to hang out with your friends in a safe place."
She said beginners and pros alike are welcome at the park. The park has an beginner zone and a more advanced cable park with ramps and other features.
Graham Siemon, director of the SouthTown Riders, said the new park will open new opportunities for the group and the children.
"It's a ministry that started in 2001, just a couple of guys who were passionate about wake boarding and impacting youth," Siemon said. "Seventeen years later, it's the same thing."
Ellis said the passion for faith and working with youth is the core of the park.
"That's what makes this place so special — the character," Ellis said. "It's just really important for us to have a community."