Adrenaline Addicts Welcome
By Brooke Peterson
With the advent of popular TV shows like ARROW and movies like The Hunger Games, it was only a matter of time before extreme sports like archery hit the mainstream. The city of Chandler, Ariz., Parks and Recreation Divisions are proud to say they were ahead of the extreme-sports curve, having developed the first skate park in the Phoenix Valley, the first BMX bike park in the state, and one of the first public archery ranges in metro Phoenix.
You may be wondering what amenities these facilities include, where we started, and how we established rules for the parks. Read on to find answers to these questions and more.
Snedigar Skate Park
Since the day Snedigar Skate Park opened to the public (March 24, 2000), it has earned a reputation that attracts some of the best skateboarders in the world. This spacious, 35,000-square-foot facility, for use by skateboarders and in-line skaters, no matter their skill level, is free and non-supervised. The park is open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Lights are provided for additional safety for nighttime skaters.
Thrasher Magazine writer Wez Lundry says Snedigar is “One of the best skate parks in the United States of America. Definitely top five, maybe top three.”
The park also features K-rail obstacles, a flat bar, and several ledges and rails for sliding and grinding. To the untrained eye, the space may look like a post-apocalyptic swimming pool, but it is actually a dream come true for skateboarding enthusiasts.
Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk says of Snedigar Skate Park: “Chandler, AZ: In the city where ostriches are king, in the park that's a breeze to find, you will find your bridge to happiness.”
Espee Bike Park
The city built the first public-use, bike-only facility in the state at Espee Park. The park is a free, non-supervised 25,000-square-foot facility for use by BMX bike riders only, and incorporates riding and jumping amenities that allow users of varying ability levels to be challenged by concrete bowls, berms, bumps, and rails.
The Phoenix New Times reports, “In short, it’s paradise for BMX/Freestyle bike riders.” Before the bowl for bikers opened, riders were regularly chased out of skate parks around the Valley and state. The main reasons were the dangers of biker/skater collisions and the damage that bikes can do to the surfaces at skate parks. Espee Park was designed specifically to withstand the heavier demands bikers place on concrete.
The staff claims that patrons have, for the most part, self-policed the park because they are grateful for a hassle-free place to ride. Professional BMX Rider Aj Anaya from Denver, Colo., says, “This is probably the best park I've ever ridden ... and I've been around.”
The classes offered by the recreation division help youth develop their extreme bike-riding and skateboarding skills in a safe environment. Both facilities were designed by city staff, Site Design Group, Inc., and a focus group comprised of residents—mostly youth.
Paseo Vista Archery Range
Prior to development, the land that houses the Paseo Vista Archery Range was a working landfill for nearly 30 years—a large, man-made dirt mound with sloping sides rising above the streets and nearby houses. The people made the investment to give this place a new purpose. Today, the slopes still dominate the landscape, but they are covered with boulders encased in wire to help control erosion, decomposed granite, wildflowers, and other plants.
The archery range was built specifically with the target archer in mind. The facility is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk. Patrons must provide their own equipment as there are no rentals available. The archery range features 25 lanes at 90 meters, five at 60 meters, and four at 30 meters. Each lane has permanent target bails for archer use.
When the park opened in January 2010, Chandler resident Mark Cullumber, president of the Arizona State Archery Association, called it the best archery range in the state.
Solicit Resident Feedback
If you are considering building any of these facilities, engage residents from the beginning, especially those whose homes are close to a facility, and, more importantly, the individuals who will actually use any of the facilities. After all, aren’t you building amenities and offering programs to meet the community’s needs and interests at an affordable price? Hold public meetings, and from there establish a core group of individuals who will be willing to serve on a focus group for public feedback throughout the process.
Give Participants A Place To Belong
Developing extreme or unique facilities gives the youth in the community safe, alternative places instead of canal banks, school grounds, dirt lots, business districts, and other unconventional locations. They can learn the sport, develop their skills, and share good times with fellow extreme-sports enthusiasts.
Establish Hours Of Operation And Rules
Do due diligence; work with the risk-management and legal departments when establishing both the rules and hours of operation, for those members will have the best interests of the organization. Will the hours be the same year-round, or will they change seasonally? Will the park close for inclement weather? Will there be regular closures for maintenance to mitigate any issues before they become serious problems? Will the facility be supervised? Will helmets be required in order to participate?
Find Extreme-Activity Instructors
Finding qualified instructors for extreme sports can be a challenge and a serious concern for parks and recreation professionals. Not only do instructors need to possess more than a basic skill in the field, but they must have a passion for sharing that interest while being personable and energetic with children and adults. When searching for instructors, you may feel a little like Goldilocks—the fit has to be just right. Jen Clouse, Recreation Coordinator I for classes held at the Espee Bike Park suggests starting where the ideal candidates spend their free time.
“When I’m looking for a BMX instructor, I reach out to the local bike shops to see if they have any staff or customers with the skill set I’m looking for. From there, I post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Craigslist, and the city website. The division as a whole is always looking for new instructors, so the city solicits instructors in every issue of our registration guide, ‘Break Time.’”
Promote Facilities And Classes
Gone are the days of “If you build it, they will come.” There are dozens if not hundreds of activities, programs, and organizations vying for a resident’s attention each week. Be sure to market programs to succeed; utilize every medium at your disposal.
Make the facility information easy for participants to find, and register if necessary. Today’s consumers want information to be immediate. If your website takes too long to load, they will move on. If the link to register is broken, chances are they won’t call to tell you, but will simply move on. If there are no photos or testimonials, how do they know they or their child will enjoy the program? Make the accessibility of information as easy as possible for consumers—post hours, rules, facility images, and videos in prominent locations on the website.
The city of Chandler produces a quarterly publication called “Break Time” that lists all upcoming classes, camps, and activities. The community can subscribe to the publication by mail each season. Members can also stop by one of the facilities to pick up a copy or visit the website to view the current issue.
Social media are other extremely low-cost marketing opportunities that communities should be taking advantage of to promote classes and programs. Photos, videos, events, etc., can be posted for free, and if funds are available, an audience can be geo-targeted to reach the exact desired market for as little as $5.
The city of Chandler is committed to offering unique amenities in open spaces to the community. It’s time to put down the Xbox and movies and experience real-life activity.
For more detailed information on these facilities, visit www.chandleraz.gov/parskandrecreation or watch the March /April 2015 episode of our bi-monthly show “Come Out & Play Chandler” on the division’s YouTube Channel: www.YouTube.com/ChandlerRecreaiton.
Brooke Peterson is the Marketing and Communication Coordinator for the city of Chandler, Ariz. Reach her at Brooke.Peterson@chandleraz.gov.