The Skatepark Decision, Part 1
Editor's note: Parks & Rec Business magazine presents the first part of The Skatepark Decision, a year-long series of articles exploring the growing demand for municipal and regional skateparks. The series will cover The Skatepark Decision, from planning to implementation, and everything in between. We'll profile skateparks from around the country and offer new perspectives and ideas on The Skatepark Decision. If you have something you'd like to see covered in this series, please let us know. If you have a unique skatepark or have found ways to make skateparks work best for your community, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our staff had received numerous phone calls from parents and skaters asking for help from the district to install a skate park in our community.
The Glen Ellyn Park District serves approximately 35,000 residents, and skaters were increasing annually as the sport grew in popularity.
The skaters did not have a designated area to skate in, so they used whatever they could find to grind, jump or ride on. This was not very popular in our community, as damage from the skaters increased, as did the calls asking for a park to use for their skating.
Our staff met with residents in 1998 to discuss the possibility of the Board approving the use of funds to build a skatepark in Glen Ellyn.
We discussed skateparks in general -- size, budgeting, design, supervision and location -- and research was provided from staff to the residents in March of 1998.
Staff found valuable materials from articles in magazines, skatepark manufacturer Web sites, EXPN.go.com and the International In-line Skating Association at iisq.org, to name a few.
Information was also obtained by attending seminars about skateparks put on by various skate equipment companies in our area.
I also contacted as many companies as possible and reviewed their equipment brochures. Staff then compared all of the equipment as far as construction methods and materials.
Our staff decided which ones would hold were constructed the best and would hold up better in our region with the harsh winters.
We wanted the ramps and rails to be semi-permanent, so kids would not be able to move the equipment around. Some of the ramps are easy to move if you have some tools.
After researching what professional skaters preferred to skate on we chose to use Skate Lite Pro on all of the ramps. This appeared to be used most widely in the skating industry.
Wood frame construction vs. metal frames, or concrete ramps was a tough decision. All appeared to be viable options, and all would last for years of use, but cost would determine our project as concrete was almost twice the cost to install.
After some research, and many phone calls to local park districts, it was clear most district picked wood frame construction, with a Skate Lite Pro surface.
It was evident that noise created from the metal frames of the ramps, and the extra costs made the choice of wood construction easier.
Location, Location, Location
The possible locations for the skatepark were discussed, including Newton, Maryknoll, Ackerman and Memorial Park (which is located across from the high school) or an abandon lumberyard next to the railroad tracks in downtown.
Newton Park is centrally located in town with no major roads to cross and not many homes surrounding it, which was one of the deciding factors for the skatepark's location.
Newton already had an area designated for in-line skating that was about 180'x 80' that was not being used very much at all. The park district had tried several times unsuccessfully to program the skate rink for in-line hockey, but the classes never became a reality as the programs had to be cancelled due to lack of enrollment.
At the same time, A Glenbard South student approached the local YMCA with 400 signatures petitioning them to build a skate park. We met with the Director of the YMCA to discuss the possibility of joining forces and build the skatepark together.
The YMCA was very interested in combining, but did not have the funding nor the land to take on a project of this magnitude.
The YMCA was considering removing its outdoor racquetball courts, but it would have been too costly.
At this point neither the YMCA nor the park district could commit to funding this project, as estimates were as high as $500,000 for a complete skate facility.
During the next two years staff had several meetings with residents, while the Glen Ellyn Park District Board of Commissioners worked on budgeting and a permanent location of the skatepark.
After lengthy discussions everyone agreed on Newton Park's in-line skating area, which already had an asphalt color-coated surface, perfect for the proposed facility.
Design & Build
During the capital project's proposed budget meeting the Board of Commissioners approved a budget of $125,000 to build the skatepark. Our staff now had a location and funding for this project to proceed with.
Superintendent of recreation, Kathleen Esposito, contacted her committee, which she had been working with over the past several years, to get together once again and discuss what type of equipment the skaters preferred to skate on.
Staff had a meeting with residents, which was well attended, with more than 35 skaters of all ages. Many parents also attended the meeting.
We recorded all of the comments of the skaters and parents in regard to their preferences for ramps and rails. After tabulating the results staff went to work researching all of the various manufacturers for skating equipment.
Our staff asked the kids questions. Ten kids had an easel and wrote down all of their comments about ramps, rails, jumps, skateparks they enjoyed skating at, as well as rules for the local parks, and what type of safety equipment would be required.
The teens did not want us to have any rules or safety requirements like helmets, pads and wrist guards, but all require users to have on the safety equipment. It's only enforced if your site is supervised, otherwise it is recommended by us that you wear it for your own safety.
Some of the comments included... Likes: quarter pipes, round rails, seating area, long speed bumps, bench/ledge, funboxes, kinked rails, banks and stationary in-ground rails. Dislikes: half-pipes take up too much space, no square rails, no BMX bikes, no pads, fees or supervision.
Staff contacted about eight different companies to design a skate park for Newton Park's in-line hockey area. During this process staff had many decisions to make regarding this facility. These decisions included to supervise or not, to charge admission, whether or not to allow BMX bikes, or to put up fence around the facility to control access.
These were very tough decisions to make. We contacted several park districts that already had skate parks to see how things were going, what worked and what didn't.
The Glen Ellyn Park District had decided to fence off the area and install a turnstile to keep bikes out of the facility. Having bikes and skateboarders together is a very dangerous situation. The difference is the speed of the bikes compared to skaters. If a collision were to take place the skater is most at risk to severe injury.
After a lengthy conversation with our insurance agency, PDRMA (Park District Risk Management Association), it was recommended that we not supervise the facility, which answered the next question of charging admission or not.
Staff decided not to charge admission since there was no supervision. Rules and regulations were posted according to PDRMA's recommendations.
After receiving several plans from the leading skate park companies, staff presented the drawings to the skaters and parents. At this meeting the skaters discussed each company and the materials used in their equipment.
We were very impressed as to how much information the skaters had about each of the company's equipment. The skaters knew exactly what they wanted in a design, and picked TrueRide's concept design with a few changes.
We contacted the manufacturer with the suggested changes to the design. They made the changes to the design, which was advertised for bid in the spring of 2002.
The Glen Ellyn Park District received several bids back and TrueRide had won the bid at $109,000 for equipment delivery and installation.
The reasons for the changes were due to the input of the kids from the various meetings. The kids picked the types of ramps, jumps and rails.
These likes/dislikes were given to the manufacturer to incorporate into their final design. This proved to be a very good idea as the kids felt like they were heard, and the equipment we have is what they wanted in a skatepark.
The design appears to be very popular with the skaters, as we have received many compliments from skaters, and parents. The park is used quite heavily on a daily basis.
Dave Scarmardo is the Superintendent of Parks for the Glen Ellyn Park District.