Proposal For An All-Concrete Skatepark
It is usually desirable to be a leader rather than a follower, but in the case of skate park construction we have the luxury of learning from the many communities that have built before us. There are approximately 78 skate parks in Washington State* and more are being constructed or planned. According to a survey conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, from 1987 to 2001 skateboarding increased by 14.4 percent to 12.5 million participants, while in this same period baseball declined by 24.5 percent to 11.4 million participants. In the United States there are a million more skateboarders than baseball players. There is a strong need for a quality skate park in our community. Skateboarding is here to stay.
Now that we are ready to start construction we face the most critical aspect of this project: the design. To quote an article from SkateOregon.com:
“Luck plays no part in modern skate parks. The previous era of skate park design was dominated by trial and error, community input and traditional patterns. The country is littered with vacant skate parks compromised in quality by ignorance, fear, fantasy and pride.”
Skate parks such as these surround Arlington.
When our skate park first started coming to life, 10,000 square feet was the size that was being proposed. The only way we can get this size of a park on our budget would be to pour a concrete pad and place modular components on it. At first this sounds like a great way to get a lot of bang for the buck, but unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way.
I propose constructing an all-concrete skate park. We are fortunate to have several companies in the Northwest that have national reputations for building outstanding skate parks. I believe we should ask for design-build bids, meaning that one company will design and build the park. With an experienced company both designing and constructing the park we can be assured we will get the best value for our investment. And bigger isn’t always better; I have included some photographs of a park in Donald, Oregon, population 600. This park was built for $35,000 and is only 2,500 square feet, but it is a great park that will serve the community well for many years. With our budget of $120,000 we can get a concrete park of approximately 7,500 square feet. A smaller park of concrete construction will be vastly superior to a 10,000 square foot pad with components. What has been proposed for our budget is a 5,000 square foot street-style area and a 2,500 square foot bowl. This style of park is ideal for us; it gives us the terrain for all styles of skating. I have enclosed some photographs from the Ballard Bowl in Seattle and the street-style park in Marysville. Only a concrete park can give us the best of both worlds.
There are other advantages to an all-concrete park besides a superior skating surface. I asked local cities about their experience with their skate parks. Mount Vernon and Bothell both have parks that are similar to what we would have if we went with modular components. Mount Vernon initially spent $82,100 for their park and then subsequently spent another $51,800 to update the components. Bothell spent $75,000 dollars to put components on an old tennis court. Both cities spend about an hour to an hour and a half per day for maintenance and both expect the components to only last 5 to 7 years.
An all-concrete park eliminates many of these issues. A concrete park will last significantly longer than components and maintenance is reduced. What also needs to be kept in mind about modular components is that many screws hold them together. I have enclosed photographs by a friend of mine, Dan Hughes. The photos show what happens if the screws are not installed properly or if they come loose. What you see in these photos is plastic from Dan’s kneepads when he slid over this screw. Imagine what would be under that screw if he didn’t have kneepads on. And this was not an isolated incident. On this particular ramp, Dan counted over twenty faulty screws and this condition has been found in many other skate parks. An all-concrete park completely eliminates this concern.
To summarize the salient points of an all-concrete skate park:
- A concrete park offers a better and more diverse skating experience.
- Concrete lasts significantly longer than modular components.
- Components will need to be replaced after only a few years.
- Safety is enhanced by lack of screws and sharp edges that can cause injury.
- Maintenance is greatly simplified.
Modular components need to be checked frequently for loose screws and excessive wear.
We need a high quality skate park in our community. Skate park builders’ knowledge and experience have grown to where we can be confident that we will get a high quality skate park for our investment. I encourage all parties involved to feel free to ask questions. I am also available to lead tours of area skate parks; the issues I bring up may become clearer if seen in person.
* This article was written in 2003. Today there are nearly 200 skateparks in Washington State.