Feature Article - February 2009
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Grind Into Action

Getting Your Skatepark Rolling

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Building Blocks

So what should a community know about building a skatepark?

"What we've said for a long time is that the only thing a city needs to know about a skatepark is that it needs one," said Jim Moss, CEO of a company that designs and builds concrete and modular skateparks. "Very few park directors know much about skateparks. They know about playgrounds because they've been buying them for years, but most communities are getting their very first skatepark."

Moss said what he needs to hear from park directors is simple: the size of the pad or location available and the amount of money in the budget.

"We then explain the different building options available and how each one will fit their needs," he said.

"When we talk to community leaders, we ask what is important to them," Moss added. "Is getting the most equipment for your dollar most important? Is less maintenance important? Will the park be in a residential neighborhood where noise will be a factor? Just what is it that you want to accomplish with the skatepark? Then we can recommend the best option."

Skateparks must be big enough to accommodate skateboarders and multiple obstacles, so 10,000 square feet, or 100 feet by 100 feet, is a typical size found across the country. "You have to have a minimum length," Moss explained. "You don't want to go under 80 feet because then you don't have enough distance between the start ramp and the middle obstacle."

That length of space is important. "When you come down the ramp, you are generating a certain amount of speed so you can set your feet so you can do a trick on that center obstacle," Moss said. "If there's not enough space, you can't get ready for it. If there is too much space, you lose your momentum."

When looking for a site to place the park, one of simplest—and least expensive—approaches is to use an existing cement or asphalt pad, such as an old tennis or basketball court, and put ramps on it. On the other end of the spectrum, in terms of complexity and cost, is an all-concrete skatepark that requires excavation. Other options fall somewhere in between.

Where a park is constructed and the materials used are dictated by different factors, explained Chris Patnaude, who works with Premise Immersive Marketing, a company that focuses on youth culture and action sports.

"Decisions are usually made because of budget or because of preference," Patnaude said.