Starting Out Right: Applying the Code of the Road to Skateparks!

Anyone that has been skating for long knows of the time-honored tradition of aiding fellow skateboarders with priceless scraps of information that will lead them to choice spots and good times. With that spirit of collaboration in mind, I went to the most innovative builders of concrete skateparks in North America today and asked them to offer up a few choice bits of advice. Without a doubt, their wealth of knowledge could be instrumental in getting a skatepark designed well and built. So, if you're in need, check out the following......

Question Number One.....

If you could give three pieces of advice to a community working toward a public skatepark for the first time, what would they be?

When organizing your skatepark association, try to bring in influential business people, tenacious skate moms, wealthy trust funders with time and funds to spare, a lawyer who can do all the 501c3 paperwork, and ideally a professional mediator to handle the inevitable personality dramas which will arise….Focus on finding a good design/build team. Superior project continuity, singular liability, and proven results make design/build the preferred project delivery system. If your city can't use a design/build team, call Wally….Send skaters to the best existing parks to scope out the current state of the art, find out who built the ones that the skaters like. Don't discount the experience of older skaters just cuz they may have tattoos and seem unorthodox. The skate knowledge of the older crew is priceless. - Geth Noble, Airspeed Skateparks.

Only about 1 in 10 parks come out great, due to poor design or construction or a combination of both. You may only get one shot, get it right the first time….Start off with a proper budget between 200,000 – 1,000,000 for a world class park. The days of a few bro’s building a park for beer money are soon over….Spend time and money on a proper design, if working with a local architect require them to consult with a skatepark builder who knows what their doing. The process takes time, don't rush it. – John Woodstock, John Woodstock Designs.

Get organized. Form a skatepark creation committee, find non-profit status, hold regular meetings with meeting agenda, and get as many people on board as you can. OF COURSE skaters & parents, Law Enforcement officials, Emergency Services representatives, religious officials, members of the local business community, Parks & Rec Staff, members of local service clubs such as the Rotary & Lions, City Councillors etc. Out of all of these people, possibly a parent or someone from the Rotary Club, someone should take responsibility/be elected President of the group. A clear leader is needed. This leader should delegate & find people with different skills such as grant writing, media relations, public speaking etc….You should also get in touch with a Skatepark Specialist-a skateboarder who designs skateparks and only skateparks-who is willing to answer your questions and help you along through the beginning phases of your project as soon as possible….Find a site that has excellent Geotechnical qualities. Basically, if you choose a site that meets all of your requirement, but has a water table problem or poor soils that need replacing and compacting with costly Structural Granular fill, your costs will skyrocket. Much of the funds that could have gone into the actual skatepark elements & structures will go into preparing the subgrade-thus, you get less skatepark for your dollar. Find a site that you can essentially excavate into, tie your rebar & place the concrete! This streamlines the process, cutting down greatly on time and money….Shoot for the stars. You'll only achieve as highly as your goals are set. Prepare to put in the extra time and work to get a concrete skatepark. Where there's a will, there's a way. We have put killer concrete skateparks into towns with populations as small as 1,000 people! It took a little more time than just buying some pre-fab ramps, but the end result is in a whole other category of quality, & the community building that often comes from a town pulling it's resources together to do a great project is priceless. - Jim Barnum, Spectrum Skatepark Creations Ltd.

Hire a design/build crew….sit back and relax….rip ride. – Monk Hubbard, Grindline.

Know what your park will cost and who is going to build it. Choose a design/build team that has the best reputation and most experience contracting quality concrete skate parks. Have design/build team summit a proposal including a sample design that can be achieved within budget. Have contract allow for changes to design during design workshops held with local skaters. Have design/build team provide construction documents and engineering by licensed architect for plan review….Do not let inexperienced architects be lead on project. Architects cannot learn how to design a skate park by putting on a few design workshops….If you have to go out to bid, do not choose a contractor based on low bid. Use experience, references, and level of service as first criteria for selection. Contact the most qualified contractors early in design process. Find out their ability to bid your project. Cities will get the best price if they offer some flexibility scheduling start dates. Bid the skate park separate from larger projects (adjacent buildings, soccer fields, etc.) to attract contractors that specialize in skate parks. - Wally Hollyday, CA Skateparks.

It is beneficial for a city to build three or four skateparks and locate them around the city and large urban areas to serve the users better and to cut down on overcrowding at one park. Let’s face it, there are a lot of skaters that are too young to drive and transportation to the skatepark may be unrealistic or dangerous. Most parks built today are small and don’t have enough area for all users, beginner and advanced….What size should they consider? An intermediate park is between 15,000 to 25,000 square feet, but is usually combined together and this is unsafe and promotes more collisions. First, it is better to determine the varieties in skating apparatus, features and create a buffer zone needed for each riding area. Don’t get me wrong, it’s super fun to haul ass around a whole park that connects, but let’s be real and make it safe for all users at all times of the day…. A temporary park should only be considered if the municipality has unused basketball, tennis courts or parking lots to build on. These structures are for a limited time however and we shouldn’t lead anyone into this type of facility if they have a large enough area for a permanent park. Cities should never pour a slab to build ramps on when the cost factor would be more effective to build a permanent concrete park. – Tim Payne, Team Pain.

Question Number 2.....

What tips do you have for skaters regarding their role in getting public skateparks built?

Skaters need to try very hard to stay united. When differences arise, work them out among skaters, not exposed to the eyes of the rest of the skatepark association members. Remember that the park is the mission; petty things must be put aside in pursuit of success. This often means suppressing one's ego for the common good. Swallow your pride, work harder than you thought possible, and stay true. – Geth Noble, Airspeed Skateparks.

ORGANIZE; seek out public support from community groups, i.e. businesses, parents, clubs, churches, YMCA, and police organizations. Have patience, be courteous, don't give up, don't give in, be relentless, and above all persistence, persistence, persistence. – John Woodstock, John Woodstock Designs.

Your main function as a skater is to steer the design of the park. To do this, you have to hire a designer who is a skater-a true skater who can understand exactly what you want & need in your skatepark. Having a designer who is still a hardcore skater-still pushing their skills & totally up on modern skating-will eliminate almost any problems that you might have in getting your design ideas across to the designer….If you have to, you should be persistent in getting what you want, but you should also respect the designer's knowledge, ideas & abilities. Basically, pick a designer that has done parks that you like, and you're all set….Other than that, you should be ready to WORK-fundraising, demos, helping with research and grant applications, attending LOTS of dedicated to the cause, be patient & be psyched! You're creating your dream park! - Jim Barnum, Spectrum Skatepark Creations Ltd.

Dig your own. – Monk Hubbard, Grindline.

Cities are realizing that skate parks are important and that they provide a great value (cost and space vs. number of users). They fear the unknown. What will it cost and how to get it built? Will they be praised or criticized? Share your infinite wisdom with them. - Wally Hollyday, CA Skateparks.

If you think that quality skateparks come from pushing around some dirt and pouring “crete” on a bump, think again. Building a concrete skatepark is a labor intensive and highly specialized endeavor. Further, if the builders don’t get it right the first time out, you’ll be skating their lumpy transitions and similar mistakes and for a long time to come. Merely talking about perfect transitions, or why this park is great, but that one sucks is not going to work either. Trust me. To most non-skaters, all parks look alike. Now, more than ever, the skate community needs to get involved with the project and remain involved until the job is complete. When it comes to building a concrete skatepark, your city needs pro-active guidance. - Anthony Gembeck, Skateparkguide.

Written by Anthony Gembeck

Reproduced by permission of TransWorld Skateboarding Business Magazine