Feature Article - February 2008
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Ride the New Wave

Skatepark Terrain for the 21st Century

By Kate Bongiovanni

Skateparks for the skate stranger

Skateparks across the country offer a variety of features that can appease the skateboarder, as well as the non-skateboarder.

"Terrain means something different to a designer and a skateboarder," Bracali said.

But some of the common terms all skateboarders toss around the park fall into three categories according to Site Design Group, a company specializing in skatepark design and construction:

  • Street terrain: curbs, ledges, planters, stairs and handrails
  • Street course: pyramids, banks, ledges and quarter-pipes
  • Vertical transitional: vert walls, pools and bowls

While Bracali's design is for a street-style park, he said there is a 50-50 split between street and transition-style parks. "The transition style skatepark is growing again," he explained.

Skate plazas utilize real urban architecture like benches, railings and public spaces to meet the needs of skateboarders as well as pedestrians. Until skateboarders were banned from the space in 2002, Love Park in Philadelphia served as an urban plaza for skateboarders.

Flow courses have terrain available for all styles, ages and abilities of skaters with terrain defined as street, street course and vertical transitional. The terrain ranges in style and degree of difficulty.

Concrete skateparks tend to be built in the ground and are the most popular constructed today because of durability for less maintenance and a smooth finish for a better ride.

Hybrids combine features of both above- and below-ground concrete structures (bowls) with modular structures (street courses, mini or vert ramps). Hybrids can also be a combination of flow and street parks, which is deemed ideal to make all users happy. Skaters for Public Skateparks recommends that park terrain be distributed 60 percent street and 40 percent transition depending on the size of the park but says on its Web site that "skaters will enjoy access to a wide variety of terrain types."

Modular parks include above-ground equipment where one can catalog shop for parts to install in a space and either purchase separately or as a set with a preferred layout.

Custom-made parks place a concrete slab and then add above-ground equipment that is specifically designed for that space with the needs of the customer and end-user experience in mind.