Built Skater Tough: Thanks to Skater-Owned Companies, Municipal Skateparks Are Meeting Customers' Expectations in Terms of Design and Construction. Discover How Three Cities Ended Up with Great Parks-And What They're Doing to Keep Them That Way

By Nims, Joshua | Parks & Recreation, August 2008 | Go to article overview

Built Skater Tough: Thanks to Skater-Owned Companies, Municipal Skateparks Are Meeting Customers' Expectations in Terms of Design and Construction. Discover How Three Cities Ended Up with Great Parks-And What They're Doing to Keep Them That Way


Nims, Joshua, Parks & Recreation


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The skatepark design and construction industry has finally matured. Skater-owned and -operated "design-build" firms provide a solid product that is almost universally accepted by all skateboarders. These firms also understand municipal proposal, bidding, and permit processes, and most provide a great place to ride a skateboard at a reasonable cost.

With the burden of decoding the secrets of skatepark design and construction no longer hanging over public park and recreation agencies attempting to provide quality facilities, department professionals can begin to think about issues often previously unexplored.

Three major considerations need to be addressed in the context of public skateparks:

* Creating strategies to secure funding for a quality facility from a reputable contractor. A park that is well-designed and built to last costs more than a few ramps on an old tennis court. While sweat and determination have built a few great parks, there must be a funding plan in place.

* Developing an operations plan that engages the athletic and social needs and expectations of users. Sure, if you build it, they will come. But if the atmosphere is oppressive in terms of rules and supervision, they probably won't stay.

* Generating revenue for growth and maintenance of the facility without charging user fees. There are a growing number of creative ways to fund maintenance and future growth without simply charging skaters to use the facility.

Three U.S. cities--Glendale, Ariz., Wheeling, W.Va., and Philadelphia--have tackled these issues and emerged with skateparks that are popular with skaters, stay open without charging user fees, and were constructed by skater-owned and -operated design-build companies.

Glendale x-Treme

The city of Glendale refers to its two concrete skateparks as "x-courts" Each features an on-site skateshop and concession stand. The parks receive constant use by locals and visitors.

Long before construction, the city made some strategic decisions about how to fund the parks. Mike Gregory, a project coordinator for the city who worked on both facilities, says, "The two facilities were part of each park's master plan. Both are regional parks and designed to have a wide appeal and large service radius. It is a little easier to justify two $60,000 basketball courts versus a $1 million x-court. We really needed to do our homework."

Homework, indeed. Identifying the park as a regional destination and as part of a master park plan certainly helped to make the city's case for local and state-level recreation funding for its skateparks. This better justified the size and cost of the skateboarding component from a funding perspective, ensuring a wider user population and larger overall constituency served.

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Being part of a master planning effort also suggested that skaters would feel connected to the rest of the park through shared pathways and connections to the larger community.

But the real revolution was how the city tackled the issues of revenue and operations. Like many municipalities, Glendale was concerned that it lacked the staff and funding to operate a skateshop and concessions that could generate the revenue needed to maintain the facility and keep it free to all users.

"Our intent," says Gregory, "was to solicit a management company to manage both facilities, including enforcement of rules and regulations; providing rental equipment, promotions, and lessons; minor repairs; operation and staffing of pro shop, food, and beverage; and inventory."

In addition, a specialized management company would have the ability to operate the concessions and skateshop with the efficiency and experience needed to generate revenue quickly.

More than a year elapsed after Glendale went out with a request for proposals to find a management group. …

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