Feature Article - February 2007
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Ramp It Up

New-generation skateparks appeals to skaters young and old

By Emily Tipping

Materials and maintenance

Once you've decided what types of terrain you want to include in your park, you'll need to make up your mind on materials. Skatepark components generally can be found in three kinds of material—wood, steel and concrete—and depending on which one you go with, your initial cost and ongoing maintenance needs will be very different.

Russell said wood has a cheap initial cost, but higher maintenance cost. In Florida, for example, wood will last three to five years before it needs renovating, he said. Metal generally comes with a long warranty, so you know it will last longer, but the initial cost might be higher. Ongoing maintenance for steel parts means checking to see that bolts are tightened. Concrete requires the highest initial investment, but maintenance is relatively simple, as long as no major repairs are required.

Thompson said that the city of Paducah also had a couple of "false starts" when it came to selecting a product. "Site location was one large challenge, and then actually understanding that you have a limited budget and you're only going to get so much for your dollar," he said. "We had a design for an in-ground facility, and at the start with the money we had, we were only going to get half of what we wanted. With that, we started looking for alternatives."

Skaters for Public Skateparks claims on its site that concrete is "widely accepted as the favored material by skateboarders and park planners due to its design flexibility and low maintenance requirements."

With concrete, you have different maintenance concerns, such as ensuring proper drainage and removing debris. While repairs might be less common with concrete, you should be aware that when they are required, they can get fairly expensive.

Modular skateparks are cheaper at the outset. Modular parks combine freestanding elements on an existing concrete slab. Many cities build them on unused tennis courts, for example. That way, site amenities like lighting, water and perhaps restrooms are already there.

One benefit of modular components is that you can move the elements around from time to time, creating new challenges for your skaters. You can also add more components in a phased approach, building your skatepark over time.

Skateparks are often heavily used, and your maintenance program should take this into account. If you are proactive about minor maintenance and repairs, as well as graffiti, you can keep your skatepark in like-new condition. Skaters will be more likely to take ownership of a well-maintained skatepark, and will take care of some of the maintenance issues for you. For example, skaters are likely to remove debris from the park before skating it, since it creates a hazard on the surface.

A couple of things to consider when developing your maintenance plan: Keep a record of your inspections and any maintenance or repairs. (This is especially important if you end up facing any type of lawsuit related to the facility.) If repairs are needed, close things off to prevent accidents and injuries. Also, remember that skaters will probably try to skate pretty much anything that's around, so as you're outfitting the site, you might want to think about getting heavier materials that can be bolted down.

Graffiti should be removed promptly, but you should first connect with the manufacturer to make sure you're using the right tools to get rid of it. Sandblasting—even paint—can alter the surface, creating a hazard.