Hiring a Quality Skatepark Designer

First off, try and convince the city to contact professionals from within the skatepark industry. There are many existing businesses that specialize in skatepark design and construction. Experienced teams of professional skatepark designers should be the first avenues explored by any community considering that type of facility. Almost all of these teams will have skaters on their crews. That fact alone is the best insurance against a park full of defective, unskateable elements that for all intents and purposes are “set in stone”. Professional teams also tend to have the skate experience required to determine what skater’s ideas will work together and in what arrangement. While contracting with a professional designer may cost the city more in the short term, these teams consistently build some of the best skateparks around. Simply put, if your community has the financial resources to hire a professional team to do the design and construction, then they should. After all, cities consistently spend millions of dollars on other sport facilities and they owe it to themselves to put the same resources and attention to detail into the skatepark.

Hiring an experienced team of designers does not necessarily mean that the project is simply turned over to them in anticipation of the result. You will not only have some say as to what goes into the park, but also your opinions will be respected. In all but rare instances members of a reputable team of designers will meet with local youth to arrive at a consensus of opinion prior to submitting a finalized design to the city for approval. In the end, design contribution by local skaters is critical to the overall success of a project. Look with skepticism upon any team unwilling to talk to the potential users of the park as that may actually result in a skatepark design that does not meet your needs. Even worse you could be left with a very elaborate design that no one has any idea how to build.

With most construction projects, you begin with a design. A draftsperson then takes that design and incorporates the specifications provided other professionals (such as structural engineers) into a set of construction drawings. Most people refer to these drawings as blueprints. From those construction drawings, contractors know exactly what they are expected to build and precisely how that building is to take place. Likewise, the city will use the specifications within the construction drawings as guidelines for their periodic inspections. Typically, alterations cannot be made to the parameters dictated within the construction drawings without the review and written approval of the city. When it comes to buildings and parking garages, this is a good thing. But, with skateparks, things are a bit different and professional designers should be given some latitude with regard to modifications. What appeared correct on the blueprint, even to a seasoned professional may need a little tweaking in the field. However, only professional designers will be capable of making those on-the-spot determinations.

There are a couple of design/build teams that insist upon the freedom to make any modifications they desire while the park is under construction. These skateparks undergo a dynamic, almost organic process while the park is being built. This design approach works because these teams have a high level of experience both as skaters and as park builders and demonstrate a meticulous attention to detail. The result is some of the best skateparks in the world. However, there are currently very few cities that are willing to turn a team lose without knowing what they will get in the end. Because of that, these teams tend to get work sporadically and only within a small geographic area where their previous works can be directly observed.

Written by Anthony Gembeck