Feature Article - February 2011
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Get In On the Action

Action Sports Parks Bigger, Better, More Balanced Than Ever

By Daniel P. Smith

Nearly two inches of snow had fallen on St. Cloud, Minn., on Nov. 13, 2010, yet 125 people turned out for the grand opening of the Heritage Park Skate Plaza, the Minnesota city's newest public recreation space and the state's largest skateboarding complex.

Blanketing two-thirds of an acre, the one-of-a-kind skateboarding facility covers 25,000 square feet of horizontal and vertical concrete featuring a volcano element, grind rails and a handrail. Anticipation for the project compelled local skaters and park officials to eagerly remove the snow, an endeavor to not only unveil the project for onlookers, but immediately open the complex for use as well.

Though St. Cloud hosted skateparks in the past—and a world-class BMX facility—the skateparks were, St. Cloud Parks Director Scott Zlotnik admitted, "insufficient and failed to meet the needs of the community." The Heritage Park Skate Plaza represented a new era for St. Cloud—and perhaps skatepark design as a whole.

The skate plaza embraces the streetscape design style making headway around the country and settling in as the day's largest action sports park trend. Utilizing the direction of credible, action sports-savvy design firms, local skater input and the construction know-how of local contractor Gohman Construction, Heritage Park's streetscape design captures action sports park design's momentum in its purest form: innovative, inviting and inclusive.

As the 21st century unravels, both skateboarding and BMX parks are evolving, each embracing changes in planning and development, materials and layout, communications and controls to deliver enjoyment-inducing settings layered with form and function.