In most communities, it takes years to get a public skatepark built. Whether you are a skatepark advocate or a city official, it can be a challenging task from finding the location to getting the funding.
So lets say you have the perfect location lined up, and you have the funds available to build the park. The big question is: WHAT’S NEXT???
The next step is the bid process, and this is the most important step before the skatepark gets designed and built. It is in this process we see some cities make the wrong decision, and years of hard work go down the drain.
SPS strongly recommends an open bid process which lets multiple firms bid on your project. We also recommend poured in place concrete. After years of us working with cities we feel this is the most viable route in getting your skatepark built. We have seen too many follies with modular skateparks, and strongly urge against this route. ______________________________________________________________________________________________
Here is what we recommend you watch out for:
Buy Boards: The buy boards allow cities to bypass the bid process and purchase directly from a vendor. There are both state and national buy boards. The main problem is that the product you purchase off of a buy board has to be pre-manufactured. For example, playground equipment, shade structures or modular skatepark equipment. Some buy boards request you have part numbers and pricing for each product.
When it comes down to it only a small handful of modular skatepark vendors can sell through a buy board. Unfortunately, a majority of the skatepark industry now uses poured in place concrete, and since you cannot put a part number on poured concrete it cannot be sold through a buy board. Therefore, when you go the route of a buy board you exclude a good portion of the industry from bidding on your skatepark.
The problem with the buy board is you could be getting a much better value for your dollar by going through the public bid process. Especially when you are considering prefabricated steel equipment verses much longer lasting poured in place concrete. Keep in mind that most of the skatepark industry now builds public skateparks using poured in place concrete. Our advice is to keep your options open, and speak with multiple skatepark vendors before making your final decision.
Proprietary Spec Bid: When a city publicly bids a project (ie skatepark) usually a RFP (Request for Proposal) or a RFQ (Request for Qualifications) is sent out to interested contractors. In regards to a skatepark, these proposals specify what the city is looking for and their requirements for bidding on the skatepark. Unfortunately, these specifications can be taken advantage by the vendor and eliminate competition.
Ten years ago modular skateparks reigned supreme in the public skatepark world. There were multiple companies supplying cities with modular equipment, and their business was thriving. Both wood framed or steel framed equipment was the norm. Then one day the wood started to rot and the steel started to rust. As of 2012, there are only a small handful of modular companies in the U.S., and most of the industry is made up of vendors who specialize in poured in place concrete skateparks.
Unfortunately, these modular vendors are well versed in manipulating the bid process. We have seen many times where a RFP is spec’d in for steel equipment or precast equipment, and does not allow for any other construction methods. The problem here is very similar to the limitations of the buy board. More companies in the skatepark industry are constructing skateparks using poured in place concrete. When the customer ops for a prefabricated build method, it severely limits the amount of competitive bids it can receive.
There is a myth that poured in place concrete skateparks are more expensive than modular parks, but the industry has changed dramatically. In the last few years, we have seen more companies in the industry that specialize in poured in place concrete which target cities with smaller budgets under $100,000. As a result, poured in place concrete skateparks have become a lot more price competitive when they go up against prefabricated skateparks. Why build with wood and steel when you can go with concrete at the same price?
Over the years we have seen many bad skateparks built because of a weak RFP or a buy board bid, but that trend is slowly starting to fade. Every year we see more and more quality concrete parks being built. This may have more to do with the fact that most skatepark vendors build with poured in place concrete only, and that communities are now starting to do their research.
At SPS we provide both sample RFPs and a vendor list to get you best value for your dollar when it comes to building a skatepark. If a salesmen tells you differently we would like to direct you to our page outlining the disadvantages of modular skateparks.
In the end, we encourage cities to communicate with multiple vendors during the RFP process. The skatepark industry has changed a lot in the last few years, and you may end up with a better skatepark than you had initially imagined.