Feature Article - November 2006
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Special Supplement: Problem-Solver Guidebook

By Stacy St. Clair and Emily Tipping

Taking Your Skatepark to the Next Level

Recreation managers waiting for the skateboard and inline frenzy to fade must rethink their strategies. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, skateboarding's popularity grew by 16.5 percent in 2005, while inline skating jumped by 12.4 percent. If you don't have a park, or you want to add to your existing facility, here are some tips to help get your wheels rolling.

Q: My community is building a skatepark. Who should be part of the planning process?

A: Your team should include community leaders, a structural engineer, a landscape engineer and a skatepark designer or manufacturer with a solid reputation. It also wouldn't hurt to have a skilled fundraiser in your group to help defray the project's cost. Above all else, however, include actual skaters in your planning process. They are the ones who will use the facility, so make sure you're building something they would enjoy.

Q: We have a mixture of skateboarding talent in the community. How do we design a park that seems fresh and inviting to all these groups?

A: Diversity is key. The most appealing skateparks mix myriad elements, including ramps, quarter pipes, street course elements and half pipes. To keep skaters challenged, put the ramps, obstacles and rails at varying heights and angles.

Q: How do I avoid design mistakes that will hurt my park's attendance?

A: Nothing kills a skatepark quicker than directional flow. Skaters must be able to move from one feature to the next with as minimal foot propulsion (pushing) as possible. Cramming the elements together, however, can make parks even less user-friendly. When arranging elements, it's also important to make sure there aren't skill-level conflicts in areas of your park. Fortunately, these matters shouldn't fall squarely on your shoulders. A good skatepark designer or manufacturer will help you navigate these tricky areas.

Q: How can I make sure skaters don't become bored with the park's design?

A: One option would be modular systems, which can be reconfigured as desired. Smaller elements like grind boxes and highway barriers can be moved easily by maintenance crews every month. Or plan for expansion and add new elements in another year or two.

Q: There's no denying the popularity of skateboarding in our town. But we can't afford a massive park. What can we do?

A: These are tough economic times, especially for the recreation industry. Don't let that deter you. A basic park can cost as little as $15,000 to $25,000 for construction and equipment, a reasonable price given the programming opportunities it can provide. If you're looking for a higher-end facility—which can cost $200,000 or more—consider a partnership with a private business, a local school or church. Be sure to seek out grants that could help cover the project's cost, as well.

Q: Beyond the skatepark basics, what other amenities do I need to be thinking about?

A: A skatepark cannot survive on ramps and half pipes alone. Be sure to include creature comforts like spectator seating, shade elements, water fountains, vending machines, restrooms, pay phones and concession stands. These amenities will make the park a more accommodating place for skaters and their families.

Q: How can I make sure people know about my skatepark?

A: You can't rely on the old "Field of Dreams" cliché that if you build it, they will come. There are a lot things competing for a skateboarder's time and attention. Consider a Web-based marketing campaign that includes e-mail blasts with coupons and other special offers.


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