Just Say NO To Modular Skateparks

 SPS (Skaters for Public Skateparks) has researched modular above ground equipment since 2004. This types of skatepark, and the range of materials used to build them, had only a brief history and no real test data available. Yet many communities were choosing above-ground modular products in over a traditional poured-in-place concrete skatepark, which have been the standard since the 1970′s. SPS focused its research on durability in order to assess the value of investing in an above-ground modular skatepark, looking at both product lifespan, as well as maintenance.

After eight years of research, SPS has visited hundreds of park and we have concluded that this form of skatepark construction is not conducive to a public skatepark environment. We feel materials such as composite plastic, fiberglass, steel and wood will require serious maintenance with time. If the vendor or owner/operator fails to repair this equipment, it creates a very dangerous situation for the end user. The problem we are seeing is that above ground modular vendors have failed to produce a sustainable and safe product for a public setting. At the same time city officials have neglected these facilities and have let them fall into disrepair. Modular above ground equipment may work great in certain settings where a portable or temporary park is needed. However, we strongly recommend against this product being marketed as a permanent solution for public use facilities.

What’s wrong with modular skateparks??? Lets get started…

Safety Concern 1: Rust

Most modular companies use a powder coated steel surface that are prone to rusting. If these facilities are not properly maintained, then it can create a very dangerous safety issue for people using this equipment. Below we have included pictures from mild rusting to very severe rusting.

This steel fun box had been in use for about five years before getting replaced. Galveston, TX.
This steel mini ramp has severe rusting where the ramp transition meets the flat bottom. Corpus Christi, TX.
This safety railing had to be replaced last year. Charleston, SC.
This safety railing had to be removed five years after installation. This goes to show how quickly a powder coated surface can rust. Spring, TX.
Once powder coated equipment starts to rust it can produce sharp edges creating an even more dangerous situation. Houston, TX.
Not only does rust happen on the surface of the ramps, but also underneath the ramp in the frame work. Laredo, TX.

 

Safety Concern 2: Steel Framed Equipment-

SPS has documented cases where the steel framework on above ground modular equipment has failed. This causes the entire structure to become unsound and dangerous for public use. Below we have included photos of what happens when the modular framework begins to fail.

The framework on this steel prefabricated ledge in San Antonio, TX failed after a couple years and the equipment had to be removed.
This photo shows what happens when the steel framework fails holding up the platform. Deming, NM.
In this photo the vertical post on the framework of this jump ramp has gone missing. A simple equipment failure like this can be detrimental to the end user. Hastings, NE.
This photo shows how the framework beneath the ramp can deteriorate and create a dangerous situation for end user. Sacramento, CA.

 

Safety Concern 3: Phenolic Fiber Laminate Surfaces

Phenolic fiber laminate riding surfaces can deteriorate in a public outdoor setting. When this surface begins to deteriorate and it is not repaired, it creates a very dangerous situation with the uneven riding surface.

After years of use if the surface layer does not get replaced it will start looking like this. San Antonio, TX.
Prefabricated surface damage. Dennison, TX.
Prefabricated surface damage Houston, TX.
Prefabricated surface damage. Sparks, TX.

 

Safety Concern 4: Approach Plates-

The approach plate (AKA: toe plate, threshold or kick plate) is the steel connection point between the ramp and the surface the equipment is sitting on. The approach plates tend to get a lot of use and we have documented many cases where these approach plates have failed. When the approach plate begins to detach from the bottom of the ramp, it creates a dangerous situation for all users. We have also documented approach plate problems on precast concrete ramps as well.

In this situation, the concrete anchors holding the approach plate down have come loose. We have found this to be a common problem with precast ramps. The Woodlands, TX.
This photo shows a steel approach disconnecting from the prefabricated ramp entirely. El Paso, TX.
Another example of how an approach plate can fail on a precast concrete ramp. Once a few of the anchors come loose, then you have major problems with the approach plates. Selma, AL.
This photo shows a loose approach plate in need of repair. Belen, NM.
Another example of a precast approach plate failing. Candia, NH.

 

Safety Concern 5: Wood Framed Equipment-

Prefabricated equipment can also be wood framed as opposed to steel framed. Unfortunately, when the wood surface and framework begins to rot this creates a very dangerous situation for the end user. We strongly recommend against this kind of construction method for an outdoor permanent skatepark.

Once the wood framework begins to rot, it effects the surface area of the ramp. This hole is one of the worst we have ever seen in a public skatepark. Needless to say the ramp had to be repaired. Gallegos, TX.
This photo shows the under side of the ramp once it begins rotting. Morton, WA.
Another problem with wood framed skatepark equipment is that it can warp. This photo shows how the wood has warped creating the panels to shift. Dennison, TX.

 

Safety Concern 6: Concrete Anchors-

Most modular equipment such as rails and benches are fastened to the surface using concrete anchors. When these anchors fail the equipment becomes loose, and it often results in the equipment being misplaced or stolen. Another problem it creates are the protruding concrete anchors left behind.

The circled area shows where a concrete anchor is protruding creating a dangerous situation if someone falls on it. Meriden, CT.
This photo shows what happens when a rail is removed or stolen. The concrete anchors are left exposed. Another reason why we recommend against anchoring skatepark equipment into a slab using fasteners. Franklin, LA.
The circled area shows where the fastener has failed after heavy use. El Paso, TX.

 

Safety Concern 7: Plastic Composite Modular Equipment-

We have documented numerous failures with the plastic composite materials being used on modular equipment. We feel this material has a short lifespan in a public skatepark environment, and is an added maintenance cost when it fails.

This photo shows how the plastic lining on this bench has deteriorated. Plastic composite materials like this are common in many prefabricated skatepark installations. Bowie, TX.
Warped plastic composite lining in Albuquerque, NM.
Plastic composite deterioration in Eagle Pass, TX.
Another problem using a plastic composite surface is that it can melt. This piece of equipment had to be removed. San Antonio, TX.
In this photo the plastic lining has completely disappeared from this bench, and all that is left is the frame. Kingwood, TX.

 

Safety Concern 8: Fiberglass Surfaces-

Modular companies also use a fiberglass surface in certain installations. Although fiberglass was used in the 70′s, it has remained obsolete for years and none of the fiberglass parks from the 70′s are still in existence.

The circled area shows the improper installation of a fiberglass bowl corner. The protruding fiberglass will not only cause damage to the surface, but also creates a danger to the end user.
This photo shows how the fiberglass deteriorates underneath the steel coping. Houston, TX.
More prefabricated fiberglass deterioration. Francisville, LA.

 

Safety Concern 9: Skate Surface Fasteners-

Some modular equipment has fasteners on the riding surface. When these fasteners become loose they begin to protrude from the surface, and it creates a dangerous situation for all users.

Protruding surface fasteners on modular equipment can create a very dangerous situation for the end user. Surface fasteners are to be avoided. Gatesville, TX.
More surface fasteners protruding. La Porte, TX.
Approach plate surface fasteners. Wylie, TX.
While steel surfaced ramps are often marketed as fastener free many of the ramps are installed with surface fasteners to prevent warping. Houston, TX.

 

Safety Concern 10: Poor Choice of Riding Surface-

We have seen numerous problems with modular equipment being placed on a poor riding surface. This surface could be an old tennis court, an old basketball court or an underutilized slab not conducive for skateboarding. When a skatepark is placed on an old slab and it gets a lot of use, then the slab might start deteriorating. We have seen this happen many times.

This skatepark was located on an old tennis court, and the riding surface has greatly deteriorated since the equipment was installed. Balcones Heights, TX.
This photo shows modular equipment digging into the tennis court surface. Waco, TX.
This old tennis court began to deteriorate once the equipment was installed. The skatepark had to be resurfaced because it was in such bad condition. San Antonio, TX.

 

Environmental Concern: Noise Pollution-

SPS has documented numerous noise complaints regarding steel modular equipment. The steel surface is a thin 3/16” sheet with no sub layer. As a result, these ramps create a lot of noise under heavy use. SPS has included numerous articles of these steel surfaced ramps creating noise problems.

The steel surface on many prefabricated ramps is only 3/16″ thick. Therefore, this then layer of steel creates a lot of noise when it comes into contact with urethane skateboard wheels.

 

Related Articles:

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Edgerton council closes skatepark

http://gazettextra.com/news/2010/may/20/edgerton-council-closes-skatepark/

“Brent Harry, chairman of the city’s parks and recreation committee, said the city’ has heard complaints that residents are bothered by noise from the skatepark’s metal ramps.

“When you have several kids using the skatepark, you’ll hear this constant ringing and echoing noise going through the neighborhood,” Harry said.”

 

Skatepark prompts lawsuit

http://www.columbusmessenger.com/NC/0/253.html

“Pickerington Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carr told city council that Huntwork did not complain about children yelling, but rather the banging made by the skateboards on the equipment.
During a series of consequent meetings Huntwork suggested either the removal of the skatepark or erecting an enclosure similar to a pole barn around the facilities, Carr said at the Pickerington Parks Committee meeting on July 23.”

 

Skatepark lock-up duty goes to police

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/article_3a4c795a-f196-5002-925d-e82fcc295e0c.html

“The half-pipe and ramps that dot the cement park are hollow metal, which creates a lot of pinging as the wheels roll across it. Across the street, Don Rosenlof said he hears the park’s noise from his home constantly .

“You hear it all day long till who knows what time in the morning till who knows what time at night,” he said. The park is supposed to close at dusk, and open again at 8 a.m.”

 

Steel skatepark to get makeover

http://www.northernstar.com.au/story/2010/10/15/steel-skatepark-nimbin-concrete/

“IT WAS advertised far and wide but the condition ‘must remove at own cost’ meant only one person tendered for the controversial steel skate park at Nimbin – and that was simply to remove the more than 20 tonnes of steel.

Under a deal with Lismore City Council to build a new, quieter, concrete skate park with Federal Government funding of $449,000, the Nimbin Community Centre Inc. agreed to remove the existing steel structure.

“We didn’t sell it but it’s being removed at no cost to the community,” said the centre’s president Dick Hopkins yesterday of the skate park that cost more than $400,000 to construct but was never officially opened because of noise problems.”

 

Tyler Walk residents ask for relief from skate park noise in Newtown Township

http://www.buckslocalnews.com/articles/2011/03/16/the_advance/news/doc4d80523ff14f5188469866.txt?viewmode=fullstory

“NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP – Sean Cardonick has had it with the noise. And he wants it stopped.”

“He and his neighbors at Tyler Walk said that since the Newtown Township Skate Park opened across Route 413 from their homes last October their quality of life has tanked.“You can hear it echo through my entire neighborhood,” said Cardonick, of the sound reverberating from the hollow metal ramps at the park. “In front of my house I can hear it, not to mention when I’m inside my house with double-paned windows I can hear it. You can feel the vibration, even when you’re outside, it’s that loud.”

 

Plaistow may temporarily close skatepark

http://www.eagletribune.com/newhampshire/x1243295187/Plaistow-may-temporarily-close-skatepark

“PLAISTOW — Carol Erickson said she can’t enjoy a quiet dinner on her deck because of the town’s new skatepark.

“You can hear the noise constantly,” she said. “You can hear noise inside with the windows closed, with the AC and the TV on: smash, crash, bang. It’s annoying. I didn’t move to New Hampshire to hear this kind of stuff.”

Erickson lives on Witch Lane beside the skatepark. She said children constantly skateboard on the metal ramps, even after the park is closed for the night.”

 

Borough Dismantles Skateboard Park After Neighbors Complain About Noise

http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/borough-dismantles-skateboard-park-after-neighbors-complain-about-noise

“Fort Lee’s Skateboard Park at Whitey Lang Park between Anderson Ave. and Inwood Terrace is no more—at least at the location it has occupied since 2008. The skate park was dismantled this week because neighboring residents were complaining about noise.”

 

Action promised on noisy skatepark

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Ely/Action-promised-on-noisy-skatepark-01122011.htm

“Residents living near a noisy skatepark are being assured that the issue will soon be improved.

For years, residents living in and near the skatepark in St John’s Road, Ely, have been complaining about the “excessive” noise.

They say noise has been an issue ever since it was opened in 2008.

Noise pollution officers from East Cambridgeshire District Council have visited the site in the past and confirm that noise levels are higher than they should be in a residential area.”

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In ending this article, we would like to warn skatepark advocates and city officials about the sales gimmicks used to market modular equipment. Some of it may sound really good, but we would encourage you to look at the photos above and ask yourself whatever happened to the ridiculous warranty they offer.

In the last eight years, we have seen enough rotted wood and rusted steel to strongly recommend against this kind of equipment. On top of that, we have seen a big shift in the skatepark industry from modular equipment to poured in place concrete.

Please visit our vendor list to learn more about poured in place skatepark builders in your area.

If you are building a skatepark on a tight budget check out our list of concrete skateparks built for under a $100,000.

If you are considering the replacement of a deteriorating modular skatepark, then check out what other communities have done.

For any other questions contact us at skateparkinfo@gmail.com