Lafayette skaters are having a moment 

ooti billeaud
Ooti Billeaud and his dog Sheriff outside the future location of Magnolia LA, one of two new skateparks set to hit Lafayette. Photo by Travis Gauthier

For five years, skaters in Lafayette had nowhere to go. After the Dust Bowl (a small concrete skate park near UL’s campus) was built over to create more university housing, Lafayette skaters were left in the dust without a community home.

Ooti Billeaud wanted to change that. With the help of crowdfunding, he opened Magnolia LA, an indoor skate park and bike shop designed to be accessible for all ages and skill-levels. 

Opening Magnolia kicked off a new era for skating in Lafayette. And in May, Lafayette is expected to open a new public skate park near Thomas Park. 

Billeaud, a skate-scene veteran, spent his youth shredding in Downtown Lafayette. He was integral to the Dust Bowl’s inception and had been successfully running Louisiana Concrete Skateparks, a nonprofit that provides information and funds to create parks across the state. 

In his vision for a new Lafayette park, he had to ensure that the location was near the heart of the city.

“I grew up less than a mile from here. So it was important for me to, you know, if I was to do a skate park and indoor skate park in Lafayette, it needed to be downtown in the area I grew up,” says Billeaud.

When the building at 216 Monroe Street went up for sale during the pandemic, Billeaud had his sights set, but to no avail. Danny Guidry (of Guidry’s Alignment) had already purchased the building. Thankfully, after a year and a pitch from Billeaud, he decided to sell.

“He believed in the movement, believed in providing a skate park and indoor space for kids to, you know, BMX, and skate, and whatever else.”

From there, Billeaud set up a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $15,000,  to get the park constructed, and he was blown away by the support.

“We got up to $32,000, which was incredible. And that just shows the community support we had. And since then, it’s really just been fixing up the building, trying to make it as nice and clean and safe and professional as possible,” he recalls.

With the skate park as an anchor, Billeaud has launched outreach efforts in  the LaPlace neighborhood where the park is housed. Billeaud and Magnolia LA Manager Blake Prade built and donated two bikes made of parts from their own collections. After posting about their efforts on Instagram, they received a flux of donations that allowed them to build four more bikes.

“We got blown up by people just giving us tons of parts that they had and we’ve been able to build up four more bikes. Since then we almost have enough parts to probably build two more bikes,” says Billeaud. “We wanted to give bikes away to kids in the neighborhood specifically. And so we’ve been doing that and it’s awesome.”

In the near future, Billeaud plans to release a 23-minute long all street BMX video, a project five years in the making, showcasing the state’s diverse talent in the scene. That’ll be the same day as the park’s annual Magnolia Jam, an all-out skate and BMX competition, although the exact date has yet to be determined. In the meantime, Billeaud is simply remaining grateful for the city’s support.

“You know, this remains a community effort. We absolutely could not do it without everyone’s help,” he says. “You know, it’s everyone that keeps this going and I’m super thankful. Everyone that works here is super thankful for your support. So thank you.”