Feature Article - January 2004
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Homes for Boarders and Bikers

Ultimate skate park designs for style, safety and performance

By Kyle Ryan


The balancing act

Now for selecting components.

"I think they should use common sense when they apply the use of their funds," Hines says of those planning a skate park. "For instance, always make sure there are a few novice ramps, then handle the intermediate to advanced skaters. If the budget is restrictive, do the street course then the halfpipe. A halfpipe is used by one skater at a time, but you can have 40 kids at once on a street course. Build in phases if money is an issue."

That kind of give and take is necessary when working with budgetary constraints. Diversity of attractions is key, though, if a skate park will be relevant down the road.

Skate parks have gone through many phases over the past 30 years. In the 1970s, there were full pipes and lots of bowls. In the 1980s, ramps like halfpipes dominated. In the 1990s, the focus shifted to street skating. In 2003, it's all of the above.

"You need to give people bowls, you need to give people street courses, and you can even consider ramp construction," Coleman says. "I think for a successful skate park there needs to be a really comfortable balance between all those three."

Finding that balance can be tricky. Rubino says, generally, skaters over age 20 (not the majority) tend to favor halfpipes and bowls, while younger kids are more interested in street courses. Not only does your design need to address their differing interests but also their varying skill levels.

"With most of the work we do for municipalities, a lot of the kids that come to meetings are going to be better skaters and are going to want huge ramps," Moss says. "But the city person needs to realize these dollars are going to something most kids can use."

Maintaining a beginner-friendly park also helps keep people honest.

"Everybody thinks they're better than they are," Rubino says. Beginners need a place to practice without interfering with advanced skaters, but if you focus on them too much, the park becomes boring to other users.

"We were concerned about beginners, but [the skaters' committee] convinced us that the learning curve is so extraordinary that you want to keep them constantly challenged," says Brian Solis, a city planner for the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation. "We just erred on the side of taller components."

To accommodate those who lack advanced skills, designers put components no taller than 3 feet on one side of the park.

Height is critical to maintaining good flow in a skate park. For example, if you have start ramps on each side of the pad, they need to be tall enough to create the right amount of momentum for obstacles in the center. As a general rule, Moss advises making the start ramps twice the height of the center obstacles.

Similar proportions come into play with halfpipes and bowls. Moss suggests making the width of halfpipes about four times the height. Coping tricks are the most popular, and if a ramp isn't wide enough, skaters can't grind for long before they have to drop back in.



Useful Links
THERE IS A WEALTH OF INFORMATION ONLINE THAT CAN GET YOU STARTED:
WWW.SKATEPARK.ORG

This site features nearly 1,000 links and articles to help with all aspects of creating a skate park: design, fund-raising, maintenance, skateboard culture and industry contacts.

WWW.SPAUSA.ORG

The official Web site of the Skate Park Association of the United States of America. It has a wealth of information on everything from insurance, planning, safety, builders and more.

WWW.BADSKATEPARKS.ORG

A site that hopes to promote good skate park design by showing the worst of it. The site features a top 10 list of common mistakes.

WWW.TONYHAWKFOUNDATION.ORG

A Web site for pro skateboarder Tony Hawk's charity that helps fund public skate parks. It has a large links section to manufacturers and skate park Web sites.

WWW.SKATEBOARDDIRECTORY.ORG

A skateboarding search engine for everything skating-related

WWW.BMXRIDERS.ORG

The Web site for the BMX Riders Association, it features a page on ways to make your ramps bike-proof.

WWW.SKATEBOARDPARKS.ORG

This site features listings for nearly 500 skate parks around the world.