An Interview with Tony Misiano: Replacing Modular Parks

Tony when did you start skating and how did you get into building skateparks?

I started skating I was 8 (1980). My friend from my soccer team brought me along for a weekend trip to Kona and he let me use one of his extra boards. I was instantly hooked and have been rolling ever since.

My first ramp was an amazing structure, consisting of pieces of dumpster scraps from a nearby construction site, stood up on end with pieces of wood holding them up. Thankfully I was a small kid, so I never got hurt in a collapse. After that, my Dad stepped in and helped me to learn how to use tools and build ramps. In my 20’s, I was living in New York City where I worked as a freelance construction worker. I was able to get in on a few projects with the late Andy Kessler, who was largely responsible for most skate parks in the area. I also worked down in the World Trade disaster area and learned a lot about concrete and rebar.

About 9 years ago I moved back to Florida and I joined up with a group of local skaters to form a skatepark committee and help to get our town, New Smyrna Beach to build a new park. Two years later, I became a General Contractor with the goal of seeing our skatepark through to its completion. I was awarded the skatepark job, my first municipal project (also a modular/wood ramp replacement) and hired Team Pain to be my specialty skatepark contractor. We worked together on that project and that sparked a want for more involvement in getting skateparks built. Our next project was solo. Misiano Skateparks was born and now five years later we’re on our 21st!

Tony Misiano Lien Air

Tony Misiano skating a vert ramp in Lake Helen, FL in the 80’s.

 

You guys have certainly built a niche in replacing modular parks with custom concrete parks. How many modular parks have you guys replaced?

We’ve replaced eight including the one we’re working on now in Jacksonville, FL and four of them are in The Woodlands, TX.

Terramont Prefab

The Terramont modular skatepark in The Woodlands, TX before demolition.

Terramont Concrete

The renovated Terramont skatepark.

Do you think cities had any idea that steel and wood framed modular parks would deteriorate within 5-10 years and have to be replaced?

I think that while some cities may have known that the ramps were temporary due to the materials they were using (steel/wood). Of course, other cities were led to believe that they had a “lifetime warranty” and that the ramps would last forever due to “new and improved materials.” When these modular parks started popping up around the late 90’s to early 2000’s, many cities thought it (skateboarding) was a temporary ‘fad’ and that there was no need to do anything permanent.

Explain the process of the scrapping the steel equipment, then reinvesting that money back into the concrete park re-build? I think you guys did that in Largo, FL and convinced the city to go all concrete on the re-build?

In Largo, we were supposed to pour a big flat slab and re-use about 50% of their old modular equipment. We were skeptical about this plan, so we got an estimate from a local scrap metal collector to get rid of the ramps. I designed new concrete features for those areas and presented the city with a price breakdown. Basically, explaining  that scraping the ramps would bring in nearly $6000. Plus with the reduction in the flatwork we came out even. The park is a total success and they are now planning on having us do another skatepark on the other side of town by next year!

Recycling IS re-using. Eliminating modular/metal ramps not only will save the city money on maintenance, but it will eliminate noise complaints from clanky metal ramps and loose flapping parts. Concrete is pretty quiet. If the park has a good flat slab, that’s a huge bonus for this type of approach.

Largo Florida

The Largo, FL skatepark under construction after the prefab replacement. The modular equipment was scrapped and the money made was re-invested towards the construction of the new park.

What about re-using some of the modular equipment? Arent you guys doing that on your latest park in Jacksonville?

We are re-using a few things in our Jacksonville project. The ramps had some heavy duty safety railing that would have cost me a week of welding to re-create, so we opted to cut the railing down and re-use it in our new stuff. We also re-used two flat-bars because they were still in good shape. We were going to add onto the legs and concrete them in, but then we traded off for one more concrete skate object and just bolted them back down with a fresh coat of paint. The all-steel ramps from this project brought in over $6400 after the hauling charges, which was also re-invested in the concrete.

Julington Creek Prefab4

The Julington Creek Plantation skatepark in Jacksonville, FL before being recycled.

Julington Creek Prefab2

The Julington Creek modular equipment on the way to the scrap yard.

Julington Creek Prefab3

Some of the modular equipment such as flat rails and handrails can sometimes be re-used.

Julington Creek Concrete Construction

Julington Creek Plantation skatepark under construction.

How about if the slab is in poor condition? Do you guys demo the slab and start from scratch?

Yes. We had to start from scratch at Harpers Landing Park in The Woodlands. That slab was cracked, lifted and rough. It also turned out to be a foot thick, so tear out was a real party. Some times, we opt to pour some flat in front of the object, in order to manage the water drainage. We had to do that at Lakeside Park in The Woodlands. Demo isn’t that big of a deal. You just have to know how to use a jack hammer correctly. The bonus is that you can re-use the demo’ed concrete as fill for your objects.

Harpers Landing Overview

Harpers Landing Park in The Woodlands, TX before demolition.

Harper_s Landing Construction1

Harpers Landing after demoing the slab.

Harper_s Landing Construction2

Harpers Landing construction of the bowl begins.

Harper_s Landing Tony Invert

Tony test riding the new bowl at Harpers Landing.

Have you encountered a situation where the city wanted to replace their deteriorating modular park with more modular equipment, and you had to convince them otherwise?

Unfortunately that is still going on. I’ve been successful with convincing them otherwise in some cases, and I’ve also been un-successful. It really depends on a lot of factors. If the city has already been approached by a modular company, then chances are they have been coached on how “it’s better to be able to move stuff around when the skaters get bored”, or  how “there is a lifetime warranty on this modular stuff”. The reality is that the modular stuff gets shaky and rattles apart. The cities either have to close the park until the warranty work is done, or they wind up spending their own money repairing stuff because they can’t get warranty work done in a timely manner. Cities are also told that it’s way too expensive to have concrete built… Not true…They just asked the wrong builder.

So if a city is looking to replace a modular park what is the ballpark price range to replace the park with concrete?

Depending on size and content, I’d say that a city can spend between $40-$75K and get a really good skatepark. Having existing flatwork and established elevations helps to save a lot on the budget and get the kids rolling again. Parks in that range are usually on a slab with an average size of about 60‘x120’ or somewhere in that range.

What else do you guys have lined up for 2014?

Well, we’re finishing up in Jacksonville in a few weeks and we’re headed to Pflugerville for our 8th Texas skatepark! After that we’ve got a few more Florida projects in the works including phase 2 of the new Branford FL park, another modular replacement and another secret backyard project. Keep checking our website for updates: www.MisianoSkateparks.com. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about this Carter. We appreciate all that you and Skaters for Public Skateparks (SPS) does for our community.