Form the Posse
Gather the people you feel will be able to commit and contribute to the new skatepark project. This group will certainly include skateboarders but also might have a few parents, skate shop owners, and other volunteers for the effort.
Introduce Yourself to Parks
Your introduction to the Parks Department should be done during a regularly scheduled Parks Board meeting. You will only have a minute or two to speak so focus on your group’s mission. Conclude by expressing your desire to work with Parks in exploring the idea further.
Connect the Stakeholders
Reach out to other active agencies and groups in your community. Conclude these meetings with at least the idea that you look forward to working together. If the idea is received well, you might ask for a letter of support or even coordinating with the group on some aspect of the effort.
Form the Vision
Consider what kind of skatepark or skateparks would best serve your community. Don’t compromise this vision by anticipated constraints. Consider the size and character of the skatepark but don’t neglect the idea of several parks of different sizes and styles throughout the community.
Launch Awareness Campaign
Take your message to the streets by organizing demos, spreading the word about the project, and regularly attending the meetings of your stakeholders. Emphasize the positive aspects of the skatepark vision and don’t get hung up on details or distracted by negative reactions and barriers.
Select the Site(s)
Work with the appropriate stakeholders to identify the site or sites for your skatepark. Establish your criteria beforehand so that you have predefined qualities you are looking for. The most appropriate site should be one that offers the greatest opportunity for the skatepark to succeed.
Launch Fundraising Campaign
Expect to pay up to $40 per square foot for your skatepark. Based on your vision, this should provide you with a good overall fundraising goal. Most of your money will come from community and governmental funds, grants, and corporate donations. A small portion will come from grassroots fundraising events.
The designer should have plenty of examples showing expertise in designing the kind of park expressed in your vision. If you are unaware of any qualified skatepark builders, consult your local skate shop or do a little online research.
Most designers should be able to recommend a small handful of qualified builders that they have confidence in. Use restrictive bidding criteria to pre-qualify potential builders that will be bidding on the job.
Cut the Ribbon
Your skatepark is ready to skate!
For the complete story pick up a copy of the Public Skatepark Development Guide! It has everything you need to know to get a fantastic new skatepark in your town. The 128-page handbook features information on building a skatepark vision, advocacy, fundraising, design, management, plus several supplements and visual aids.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why are skateparks beneficial to communities?
- How do we create a non-profit organization? (And do I need to?)
- Where can I find ramp designs for building my own structures?
- Are kids at skateparks exposed to drug use and other negative influences like foul language?
- Should bikes be allowed in skateboard parks?
- Should new skaters be required to take a skatepark safety class?
- Should the number of skaters in a park be limited?
- How old should a skater be before he or she skates unsupervised?
- Do you have any information on setting up skate contests?
- How do I put a skateboarding league together?
- Does the Tony Hawk Foundation sponsor skaters? If not, can you tell me how to go about getting sponsored?
- Other than the Tony Hawk Foundation, what other sources of funding should I pursue?
- Do you have any job openings?
Questions On The Process Of Building A Skatepark
- We need a skatepark, but where do we start?
- How do we decide where to build our skatepark?
- What can we do to prevent our skatepark from being closed?
- What is better: Modular or Concrete?
- Where can we get insurance for our skatepark?
- Should the skatepark be supervised?
- Can we use a general contractor to build our skatepark?
- What rules and policies should our skatepark have?
Questions Regarding Grant Applications
- Do you provide grants outside the United States?
- Would the Tony Hawk Foundation consider funding my project even though it's not exactly a skatepark?
- Do you give grants only for concrete parks?
- Can I apply if we already have a small or rundown park?
- Can we apply for a grant if we plan to charge kids to skate?
- May we apply for a grant to finance such amenities as bleachers, lights and bathrooms?
- May I submit pictures and video links in my application?
- Do we qualify for a grant if we intend to require pads and/or helmets?
- What determines low-income?
- What do you mean by "at-risk" youth?
- When will I be contacted regarding the status of my grant application?
- Can we reapply if our initial application was rejected, or if we received a small grant in the past?
- Can Tony come to our grand opening?
Why are skateparks beneficial to communities?
There are many benefits to skateparks. They provide community value in five significant ways.
- Skateparks provide a place for kids who aren’t attracted to traditional team sports a place to go and express themselves in an individual and athletic manner. Getting kids, particularly at-risk kids, involved in a personal and esteem-building activity like skateboarding helps them build the confidence to do well in other aspects of their lives.
- Skateparks provide a place for local youth to meet, socialize, and develop friendships based on a common, healthy interest. The bonds of friendship based on a mutual interest in skating often last a lifetime.
Health and Developmental Benefits
- Providing recreational opportunities to young children helps them develop healthy, active lifestyles, and the growing popularity of skateboarding is encouraging more and more people to go outside and roll. On average skaters are between 12 and 17 years old. These are formative years in a youth’s life and developing a habitual desire for physical recreation is essential to a healthy future.
- Skateboarding is physically active and requires, at times, great concentration. It encourages children to spend time outdoors, tests their endurance, sharpens their senses, and develops their creativity. Skateboarding requires no coaches and suggests no standardized approach to riding a skatepark. Skaters are free to ride in their own way, to their own abilities, and encouraged to pursue their own style of skating. Many people who started in their teens still enjoy skateboarding well into their 50s.
- Youth in low-income areas are particularly prone to health issues related to lack of exercise due to the expense of equipment and travel, or lack of leisure time. For these communities a local skatepark becomes an effective tool that teaches healthy, athletic living at an impressionable age.
Public Comfort and Safety Benefits
- The 9.3-million skateboarders in America only have about 3,000 skateparks nationwide. That means the vast majority of them are skating in the streets. Over 90% of deaths involving skateboards in the U.S. occur outside of skateparks. Most of these tragedies also involve a motor vehicle. Skateparks, even the more challenging ones, are far safer than kids rolling through busy streets.
- Skateparks provide a place for local youth to practice their tricks. This means that they’re not skating downtown or in areas where they are seen as a nuisance, a menace, or causing damage to structures. Skateboarding ordinances and other deterrents generally fail to significantly mitigate skating in inappropriate areas. Drawing the activity to appropriate areas allow other preventative measures to be more effective.
- In addition to the direct health benefits, research even suggests that skateboarding can help keep teens out of trouble. A 2006 study found that skateboarders are less likely to smoke cigarettes, have sex, and skip school. (“Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior Patterns are Associated with Selected Adolescent Health Risk Behaviors,” PEDIATRICS, Vol. 117 No. 4, April 2006)
- We do not have any specific studies on the economic impact of skateparks on communities. But from the feedback we receive from municipal skatepark managers, skateparks do seem to have a positive effect on businesses in the surrounding area. When a skatepark opens, it tends to draw folks from the outlying communities to come bring their kids to the skatepark, do some shopping, maybe have lunch, buy some gas, etc. The further away the nearest skatepark is, the further people travel to visit the new park. Skateparks attract patrons to local businesses who might not otherwise be in the area.
- Skateboarders are tenacious and will go wherever the compelling terrain is. While skateparks with high visibility and ample community interaction are healthier environments, skateparks in challenging locations can often serve to activate an otherwise underutilized space. Their presence displaces less desirable elements that require privacy and can be a steady presence for other visitors that may be reluctant to visit a desolate area.
Community Development Benefits
- When parks are built right--with local skater input and involvement throughout the process--those youth develop a sense of ownership, pride, and community engagement. The very existence of the park is the result of their hard work and interaction with the broader community. They worked with civic and local business leaders, with each other on design elements, and with the community to find a suitable location. These previously disenfranchised skaters, who once ran from the police, find themselves working with the police, the city, and the community as a whole. It’s a transformational process for these young people.
- Skateparks allow the broader community to see the skateboarding youth for what they truly are: Passionate, dedicated athletes that voluntarily seek out physical recreation. Most communities with new skateparks are surprised to see how popular and positive the facility is and regret not making it larger.
- Without skateparks, skateboarders are often treated as pariahs and repeatedly told to leave the area. In some areas they must deal with law enforcement for doing something that they feel is essentially harmless. The cumulative effects of this treatment instill a sense of disconnection to their community. This regrettable cycle creates at-risk youth and is easily preventable through the creation of a local skatepark. When the youth are treated as criminals, they often become criminals.
How do we create a non-profit organization? (And do we need to?)
Creating your own non-profit organization is a very standard process. Visit Nonprofits.org for some useful information. Ultimately, seeking the assistance of an attorney who specializes in nonprofit registration is the best way to ensure your organization is registered properly and timely.
Skatepark efforts do not typically need to create a nonprofit organization from scratch. Instead, many groups enlist the support of a fiscal sponsor. This sponsor acts as a financial steward for the organization. The sponsor might be a Parks Department, community organization (such as “Friends of Pioneer Park”), or fraternal organizations (like Elks or Masons). While there may be a small administrative fee associated with the service, it will often be less than the cost of starting a nonprofit. A fiscal sponsor will remove the need to learn about operating a nonprofit organization.
Where can I find ramp designs for building my own structures?
While homemade or even commercially-manufactured wood-frame ramps are not suitable for the rigors of public-skatepark use, they are more affordably built and sufficient for personal, home use, or for indoor skateparks where a frequent inspection-and-repair regime is conducted. The following are some resources for skate-ramp building instructions:
- Skateboarddirectory.com lists a number of sources for skate-ramp plans.
- Whitefish Skate Ramp Company provides life-size ramp plans with traceable templates for towns that want to build their own skatepark. They also provide traceable template plans for backyard halfpipes and small driveway street ramps. Ramp-surface pricing is also available.
- Thrasher Magazine provides photos, diagrams, and an outline for building a halfpipe ramp for vertical skating.
Are kids at skateparks exposed to drug use and other negative influences like foul language?
Skaters need to be focused and alert, particularly in a skatepark setting, to maintain their balance and to perform the maneuvers they do. Skateboarding, by its very nature, is an anti-drug. Generally, a skatepark full of kids who are there to skate is a skatepark full of kids not getting stoned.
At skateparks, older skaters tend to look after younger skaters. They offer tips, help them out of bowls when they fall, and will rise to the occasion when they have the opportunity to set a positive example or mentor a younger skater.
A skatepark is a place where skaters get together and enjoy the space, the camaraderie, and the physical thrill of riding. An outdoor, open, highly visible location--as most skateparks are--is not the place to bully kids, use drugs, or be a nuisance. Skaters are there for a reason, and are generally very good at policing each other about behavior that interferes with their enjoying the park.
Skateparks where the skaters have trouble with non-skating drug users and delinquents showing up are typically located in secluded areas, where casual supervision is infrequent or doesn’t exist. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s one that the skaters suffer from, rather than create themselves. It is important that the skatepark is positioned somewhere in the community where there is ample pedestrian traffic. This prevents people from preying on the captive skatepark audience.
A well-built and properly sited skatepark that reflects the needs of the local skaters is a hive of creative, physical activity, a place where kids and adults who enjoy skateboarding come together and are focused on their sport in an inherently positive environment.
Should bikes be allowed in skateboard parks?
Skateboarders and freestyle-BMX riders have much more in common than they do differences. The effort to promote a skatepark in a community that has never built one often meets political resistance from elected officials who are understandably reluctant to spend public funds on a new facility. Skateboarding is a new activity for them, and a skatepark is a facility they didn’t realize is necessary. Approaching elected officials as a coalition of skateboarders and freestyle-BMX riders indicates that the facility will accommodate a range of users, and isn’t just a product of skaters’ self-interest. A new skatepark should always be presented as a community asset, and promoting it as a mixed-use facility is the most effective way to achieve that.
While promoting mixed use is important, THF recognizes that mixed use may not conform to some state and municipal laws that limit state, county, or municipal exposure to liability. We encourage elected officials to seek legal remedies to these limitations and to seek compromises to accommodate mixed use of their skateparks.
We also recognize some very real concerns from skateboarders who are reluctant to use a skatepark while freestyle-BMX riders are in the park. The handlebars, pegs, and other projections on a bicycle can cause serious injuries, and the ability of bikes to make sudden sharp turns only increases the likelihood that a skater, who has more limited turning abilities, may run into them. The ability of BMX riders to go faster and jump over obstacles and structures that a skater can’t changes how many parks are used between the two groups. As a result, skaters and BMX riders sometimes fail to understand the opportunities and limitations of each other, and this can introduce risk of injury and lead to a hostile relationship between the two groups. If foresight is an option, it’s imperative that the skatepark designer understand that BMX will be present so that they can reduce areas that are available only to BMX. The elimination of these blind spots, (or places of unexpected travel), is essential for the park patron’s well-being.
If a skatepark cannot be safely used by BMXers and skateboarders simultaneously, their sessions should be staggered so that only one group uses the park at any one time.
Concerns of potential damage to the skatepark from bike use can be mitigated through design, construction techniques, and materials. Some prominent skatepark builders will not warranty their skateparks against damage caused by bikes, but seeking the cooperation of freestyle-BMX users to remove pegs or use soft pegs or peg caps can limit potential damage. BMX damage tends to be more common in wood- and steel-based ramp-style skateparks than in poured-in-place concrete skateparks.
Inclusion of freestyle-BMX riders or other user groups is always most successful when those groups are involved on the skatepark steering committees throughout the process. Skateparks often require years of persistent advocacy, and the individuals responsible for those efforts will naturally feel more entitled to the skatepark than members of potential user groups that were not involved in the effort.
Accommodating additional user groups is always possible after the skatepark is completed, but the process is much less complicated when skateboarders and the additional user groups have a history of working together and sharing the burden of advocating for the skatepark. The benefits of including BMX riders in the public skatepark will outweigh the safety concerns and maintenance impact if the BMX community has sustained involvement the advocacy and fundraising process, and the park designer is aware of their needs.
An additional consideration is that many parks that don’t allow BMX are well attended by those users in spite of the rules. The flagrant violation is not malicious; it may be that the BMX-riding youth consider the policy out-of-touch with the rhythm and general attitude of the skatepark and its skateboarding users. In other words, just because a skatepark does not allow BMX does not mean that BMX will not be present at the park. It’s best to plan for this significant user group.
Should new skaters be required to take a skatepark safety class?
Safety classes can be valuable for young skaters not familiar with the general layout and flow of traffic at a skatepark. Small children often stand on an element in the middle of a skatepark that a number of people are waiting to ride. The kids don’t understand that they’re impeding the use of the park, and would benefit from having someone explain where one should and shouldn’t stand, and what to look out for before dropping in. Most parks don’t require such a class, but it could be valuable for new or young skaters. Most beginning skaters learn how to safely navigate a crowded skatepark through ad hoc mentoring by more experienced skaters, or trial and error.
Safety instruction for young skaters should not be mandatory, however, as the difficulty in monitoring access to an unstaffed public skatepark would make imposing such a condition impractical. Few, if any, public skateparks require a safety class before users are allowed to access to the facility.
Should the number of skaters in a park be limited?
In the interest of safe skateboarding, a limited number of users in a skatepark can reduce the likelihood of collisions. But while limiting the number of skatepark users allows those in the park to skate more freely, imposing such a limit would be impractical if a skatepark is not staffed.
Skaters are generally good at policing themselves and deciding if a skatepark is too crowded to use, and a skatepark should be as accessible as any other sports or recreational facility a community offers, like ball fields and courts. Supervising skateparks also creates an ongoing financial burden for taxpayers, or for the skaters if the city then charges admission to the park to pay for the supervision.
How old should a skater be before he or she skates unsupervised?
Ultimately, it’s the parents’ responsibility to supervise their children. If the children are young enough or the parents want to be sure their kids are skating safely, they should be with them at the park. The issue of supervising skaters is a parenting question more than a skatepark-policy issue.
The paramount concern is the child’s safety. Their skill level will determine their confidence and ability to safely navigate and use the skatepark. Inexperienced skaters of any age should never skate alone.
Beginners or skaters who are unsure of their abilities to safely use the skatepark should go to the park in the morning before the park is crowded. A less-crowded skatepark will allow the inexperienced visitor a less chaotic environment in which to explore the structures. Later, as their confidence grows, they can spend time understanding the traffic patterns of busier skateparks. Under no circumstances, supervised or not, should younger inexperienced skaters visit the skatepark during the most crowded times—usually between 3 and 6 PM—and expect to have uncontested time in the park.
Do you have any information on setting up skate contests?
Skateboarding contests can be fun and instrumental in bringing a community of skaters together. Often, skaters will travel hundreds of miles to attend and compete in a contest if the event shows promise of a good time or good exposure for talented skaters hoping to find a sponsor.
In most contests, skaters ride through the park or course individually while a panel of judges (5 - 7 experienced skaters) rates each competitor’s routine (45 seconds to one minute). Scores are based on skill displayed (the difficulty of the maneuvers), consistency (not falling of the board), style (general aesthetic appeal of the skating), and use of course (the more sections used the better). Scores are based on a 0 - 100 scale, much like a school test (70 is mediocre, 80 is good, 90 is great, and 91 - 99 is virtually flawless). You almost never see 100.
There are several great judging formats. The judging panel, described above, is the most common.Other variations include a judging panel, but each judge only scores one aspect of a skater’s routine (either skill, consistency, style, or another aspect of their skating. Or another successful method has been to have the participants themselves vote a winner. It has worked surprisingly well at both pro and amateur events, as skaters—first and foremost—want to skate with their friends and have a good time. Skateboard contests are often much less “competitive” than one might expect.
In a standard format, judges each have a roster of skaters with two spaces next to their names. The skaters each take two runs, and one score is entered after each run. The better score is kept, and the lower score is only used to break a tie. Depending on the number of skaters, you can run through the entire roster twice. If there are a large number of competitors, they can be put in groups of ten or so skaters so that a single group can take their runs without too much time lapsing between an individual skater’s runs.
There are usually a couple rounds in each contest. After skaters each take their two runs, they’re ranked, and the top half of the list advances to the next round and the both half are eliminated. If you have 32 skaters in a contest, each take two runs, the scores are tallied, the bottom 16 are dropped, and the top 16 go on to the next round. The advancing group skate their two runs again, and the top 8 advance (while the lower 8 are eliminated). At that point, you have to decide if you want to break it down any more, or just go with an 8-skater final round--they take their two runs, and they’re ranked 1 through 8.
In that system, the top 8 skaters will have taken 6 judged runs, which is a good number. More and they’re too tired (they’re practicing in between runs). So decide how far to break it down once you have all the entrants. It’s possible to go from 100 skaters down to 32, and then 16, etc. That’s a big jump, but otherwise you’ll be there all night. And the judges will be pretty exhausted, too.
Contestants are typically required to sign liability waivers. There is little consistency regarding helmet and pad use. The requirement for personal protection usually depends the event’s insurance carrier rather than the basis of risk assessment for the style of terrain and expected skill level of the contestants.
How well the event is organized will be a factor in the overall length of time it takes to go through each round. It’s important to keep an exciting pace so that the event does not go all day and that spectators can track the action without losing interest. Be sure to thoroughly review the event schedule and the practices you expect to implement with all key event personnel.
This is the standard contest format. For amateur contests, you might consider defining required maneuvers or sections of the park that skaters must pass through. But generally skaters are free to do whatever they like on the course in the allotted time.
It might be worth your while to contact a couple of contest organizations to ask about their judging criteria:
- United Skateboarding Association (amateur contest group)
- World Cup Skateboarding (pro contest group)
- Damn Am (amateur contest group)
How do I put a skateboarding league together?
Unlike traditional team-based sports, skate teams are structured a bit differently. A skate team likely shares a sponsor, so one skater may belong to several teams, and “teammates” will compete against each other as individuals in contests. A high school skate team may compete against another high school’s team, but the winner of the contest (or each contest division) will be an individual.
Start by contacting existing amateur skateboarding competition organizations. They can provide expert advice. To start a league or contest organization, we would recommend contacting these organizations to learn more about how they operate:
Does the Tony Hawk Foundation sponsor skaters? If not, can you tell me how to go about getting sponsored?
No, the Foundation does not have a skate team or sponsor skaters.
A good place to seek sponsorship is your local skate shop. Even if they don’t sponsor you, they should be able to offer advice on what you might need to improve your chances. Also, check out this article at KidzWorld for more information on getting sponsored.
Other than the Tony Hawk Foundation, what other sources of funding should I pursue?
Diversifying your appeal for donations is one of the primary ways to get a little from a lot of sources. Seek out as many potential donors and fundraising opportunities as possible. Here are some ideas, though they are by no means the only avenues to pursue.
Contrary to popular belief, the skateboard industry isn’t a good source for cash donations. However, skateboard companies may be willing to send items for raffles and fundraising events. As you might imagine, skate companies get many requests for help from local skatepark projects, and as much as they would like to help, they have limited resources. Prepare a letter that describes your skatepark project, your successes to date, and maybe include a diagram of the skatepark design when writing to skate companies. Like us, they like to see and support groups who are working hard and have a strong probability of achieving their goal. Look up companies and their addresses at the Skateboard Directory Web site.
Maybe one of the skaters on your committee can do that legwork.
Many states set aside Parks And Recreation funds every year that are granted to qualifying cities. These funds are often available only to projects that meet specific guidelines. It requires finding out what funds are available, and for what specific types of projects, but a call to your local state representatives’ offices should be a good place to start. A big issue across the country right now is child obesity. Many states have launched programs to promote healthy lifestyles and offer grants to community projects that address it. One great thing about skateparks is that they can meet the requirements for lots of different funding sources because they help communities in so many different ways.
It might be worth your while to hire a professional grant writer to help customize your story to fit the conditions of a specific grant. Professional grant writers often have expertise in identifying other potential sources of funds, including corporations and private foundations (like THF). It may seem extravagant or expensive to hire such a person, but often they only make a percentage of what they earn you.
The alternative is to seek out corporate and private grant opportunities yourself. A call to most major corporations can help you identify the person there in charge of corporate giving. Often large companies set aside charitable dollars earmarked for youth causes. Find out who handles those funds and what their requirements are, and write your proposal to address the specific points they look for in a funding opportunity.
Do not presume that one carefully written “slam dunk” letter will be appropriate to all of your potential donors. You will typically want to draft a letter or application specifically for the donor you are contacting that is tailored to their interests and mission. For example, a letter describing how skateboarding is a great tool for fighting obesity may be true and important, but if the donor is interested in sustainable design, you’ve missed an opportunity to talk about the low carbon footprint of skateparks and skateboards as an alternative, “green” mode of transportation.
If you’ve been awarded grants from any source, celebrate those awards through your local press. Often local papers are willing to run an article on your success, whether it’s $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation or the large company whose corporate headquarters is located in your town. Exposure in the local press often reveals other potential donors - local companies and philanthropists who learned about your project through a newspaper article.
There really are no limits to where you can find sources of funding. If your project includes baseball or soccer fields (or facilities for some other sport), there are funding sources that focus on those sports, too. Companies like Nike and Converse, or sports organizations like the US Soccer Federation may have money earmarked for the non-skate aspect of your project. It takes more time and effort, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Do you have any job openings?
We do not have any open positions at this time. The Tony Hawk Foundation is a small organization with a mission to raise funds and award grants. With that as our focus, we do not anticipate adding to staff in the near future. When positions do become available, they will be posted on the Web site. We do not accept unsolicited resumes.
We need a skatepark, but where do we start?
Our step-by-step guide to getting a skatepark, the Public Skatepark Development Guide is available at www.publicskateparkguide.org and provides instruction on the entire skatepark process, from organizing your advocacy group all the way to policy and maintenance of your skatepark.
You will likely encounter resistance to the skatepark proposal. Others may support it only if they can see the plan modified to suit their needs. You will need to be tactful and negotiate with everyone that voices an opinion on the new skatepark. Neighbors may be against the location, while the Parks Department might want to use the least expensive ramps they can find. Sometimes the changes to the idea will be improvements and sometimes they won’t be. You will need to assess each recommendation on its own merit.
You can call the Parks And Recreation departments in nearby cities that have skateparks to speak to the skatepark program administrator. Those individuals have likely faced similar adversity, but have persevered. Their experience may prove invaluable to you as you move through the process.
Don’t let the dismissive attitude of others dissuade you from helping the skaters. Your most important audience is the City Council. The council answers to you and other voters. Because skaters are typically younger and don’t represent a significant voting constituency, adults and influential business leaders need to address the council and speak in support of the skaters and their need for a park. And the skaters should speak, and make their case, and they should also be involved in the entire process, because it will change them and it will change the attitudes of the council members who hear them articulate their needs and ideas for resolving this daily conflict between skaters and the law.
You’ll be surprised how quickly things begin to change once you build some momentum.
How do we decide where to build our skatepark?
Skatepark locations can often become the single-most controversial decisions regarding the new skatepark. Typically that controversy comes from neighbors adjacent to the proposed location. The resistance stems from fears--many unfounded--about skateparks and the people they are designed to attract. For what it’s worth, most of the common reasons against skateparks are based on a complete misunderstanding about skateparks and skaters, and come from people who have no prior experience dealing with skaters, skateparks, or even park development.
Here are a few guidelines to consider when determining where to locate your skatepark:
- Most skaters don’t drive, so a skatepark should be in a central location near residential areas and easily accessible by public transportation.
- Skateparks should be located near the street rather than tucked away in the back of a larger park area. Hidden locations attract elements other than skateboarders, and can lead to problems the skaters don’t create, but may be blamed for.
- Skateparks should be located where the general public is likely to walk by. This helps curb inappropriate behavior but also allows the community to see and understand the healthy activity and positive environment. This positive experience will result in future skateparks being much easier to make a case for. (By hiding the skatepark where the community isn’t likely to interact with it, the stereotypes and negative preconceptions about skateboarders will likely persist.)
- Existing public park areas are ideal locations to add a skatepark. Many necessities will already be in place: parking facilities, restrooms, and in some cases lighting. This can save money and allow funds set aside for the skatepark to be used for the actual skatepark, and not amenities.
- Skateparks can easily replace underutilized grass areas or ball fields. Many basketball or tennis courts can also be repurposed for skateboarding. Most cities already provide multiple facilities for traditional ball sports, so if undeveloped locations aren’t available, repurposing is often the best solution.
- Sometimes community groups, like the Rotary Club, have property they are willing to donate for community facilities like skateparks. If an appropriate city property is unavailable, approaching local community groups and community-minded business organizations is often the best alternative.
If the Parks Department is intending to refurbish an existing park space, it’s an excellent opportunity to provide solutions for the skateboarders’ needs. The park will already have construction occurring there so adding a skatepark can be less expensive than usual due to mobilization costs. Stay alert to public meetings regarding master park plans. It’s important to get to these meetings, particularly in the earliest stages, and attend each one dedicated to design to ensure that the skaters’ needs are recognized.
Some people associate skateboarding with gangs and crime, when the opposite is generally the truth. Skateboarders are by and large dedicated and passionate about what they do and have little interest in joining gangs. They also decry the noise associated with skateboarding. A concrete skatepark should be no louder than most athletic activities. When skateboards are rolling down a rough sidewalk they are clearly heard and it may seem incongruent with other things happening on the street, but at a skatepark, where the concrete is smooth, skateboards are relatively quiet and the sounds coming from a skatepark are the same types of sounds that one might hear at a ball field or playground.
The unfortunate reality is that these perceptions exist, and those individuals who voice them have a right to speak out. It’s human nature to fear things that we don’t understand. Once the park goes in, it’s always better to not have neighbors vigilantly suspicious as they will be eager to complain and resent the kids who use it. Invite resistant residents to your meetings to meet the kids who will be skating at the park. If they’re impressed, perhaps they’ll decide the need for the park is greater than their concern for noise.
What can we do to prevent our skatepark from being closed?
Our staff members have been to many City Council meetings over the years, and in every case there are at least a handful of people that object to the skatepark (often called NIMBYs, short for Not In My Backyard), out of pure self interest and general ignorance about skateboarding.
People who desire to see a park closed (or not opened in the first place) may feel this way for a variety of reasons. It is important to recognize and reflect on the validity of those concerns before responding; sometimes the issue is practical and relevant to everyone … and other times it will be based on misconceptions about skateparks and skateboarders.
Park closures are never fun. The two most common reasons for park closures are maintenance costs and lack of policy compliance by the park users. It’s important to understand the true reason for the closure. Sometimes the position will be that the closure is due to budget issues, when it reality the skatepark was unpopular with a handful of neighbors and they have been persistently calling in every infraction or activity that upsets them.
There are a few things you can do to prevent a closure. It’s important to immediately recognize if there is any community desire to see the skatepark shut down. If so, even if it’s from a small number of people, their issues must be discussed openly so that a solution can be identified.
If the community wishes to keep the park open and the decision is purely financial, the skatepark advocacy group, combined with regular skatepark visitors, can meet to discuss ways of reducing maintenance expenses.
Rising maintenance expenses are typically a concern with wood-based skatepark ramps. Communities that purchase these types of ramps sometimes underestimate the resources required to purchase and replace the surface sheets of the structures. If maintenance is deferred, the deterioration reaches deeper parts of the structures and the expense to restore them to a safe condition rises appropriately. As the ramps age, the need for routine maintenance increases. Some Parks Departments are unprepared for the maintenance demands of wood-based skateparks and the facilities fall into ruins.
Concrete skateparks offer the best long-term value in terms of expense. Maintenance on concrete is very low and generally isolated to cosmetic issues, (a local graffiti “artist” considers the skatepark their personal canvas). Graffiti removal is a standard maintenance issue for many park facilities and is not unique to skateparks. The Parks Department should be prepared to respond immediately to any new graffiti just as they might if that graffiti appeared elsewhere.
Finding a solution to a skatepark closure requires a full understanding and appreciation of the reason for the closure, then identifying win-win solutions for everyone involved.
What is better: Modular or Concrete?
There are two primary types of skateparks. Modular parks are essentially “kit” parks that are assembled from manufactured pieces and installed on an existing slab of concrete. Modular parks are usually wood-based or steel. Concrete skateparks are built on-site using traditional construction processes.
Modular skateparks are good solutions when an available paved surface already exists, such as a tennis court. Although quality varies from vendor to vendor, and from product line to product line, these types of parks tend to have limited life spans. As the modular park ages, the cost of maintaining it rises exponentially until it can no longer be justified, or the park is not maintained and is eventually closed for public-safety reasons.
Concrete parks offer the greatest flexibility and latitude in design, and if built by a qualified and skilled skatepark builder, will offer decades of virtually maintenance-free use. All of the world’s most famous public skateparks are concrete.
There is no “best” company for modular or concrete skateparks. All of the established companies have cultivated a professional reputation and should stand behind their products and/or workmanship. Contact them and ask for the nearest few skateparks to you, then contact those communities to see how happy they are with the product. If maintenance expenses are a concern, don’t forget to ask how old their park is and what their maintenance experience has been.
Don’t only ask the Parks Departments about their skateparks. Few professionals in the Parks industry will be eager to reveal their poor decisions. Also contact the skate shops near those skateparks. They will likely be frank with you about the public reception to the skatepark--its design, its size, its material, and its policy. This is important research that will be essential in shaping an informed decision about what’s right for your community. You wouldn’t buy a car or house without doing some research, and the skatepark will be used by thousands of individuals for 10 years or more. Remember: By doing a little research you will only increase your ability to make an informed decision or recommendation.
Where can we get insurance for our skatepark?
Most municipal skateparks will fall under the city’s umbrella coverage, especially considering that skateboarding is responsible for fewer injuries than other common sports.The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual electronic survey of hospital emergency-room visits reveals that softball, soccer, and basketball, among other popular sports, are responsible for more injuries per 1,000 participants than skateboarding. Still, many cities prefer to insure their skateparks with a separate policy. While many common insurance carriers have not written policies for skateparks, a few have. Their experience covering skateparks helps them quote policies that can be significantly less expensive than competing firms. We would suggest checking with your city’s existing insurer about adding the skatepark, if it’s necessary to insure it separately at all.
Otherwise, the following are some of the carriers we know of that have written policies for skateparks:
Katherine Wong, Francis L. Dean & Associates
City Securities Corporation
Gold Coast Specialty Insurance Agency, Inc.
Note that some insurance carriers will have substantial skatepark policy requirements that may be difficult or viewed as excessive or unreasonable to the average skatepark visitor. Noncompliance can void any insurance claim, should one arise, and present a bad situation for the City that did not adequately enforce the policy. Review the insurance requirements carefully before making a decision.
Should the skatepark be supervised?
We understand that some administrators are wary of an unsupervised skatepark. They should realize that most of the other athletic facilities their city provides (soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts) are also unsupervised and that people are more likely to be injured using those facilities than they are riding in a skatepark.
The Tony Hawk Foundation recommends free, unsupervised skateparks that are administered like other athletic facilities. The expense of adding full-time employees can be a burden on a tight budget. Supervision is not likely to enhance a skater’s experience or reduce the likelihood of injury. Therefore the easy answer would be to open your park and let the skaters ride it at-will, without an on-site monitor.
Experience shows that broad community support for the skatepark is more effective in curbing unwanted behavior and achieving high policy compliance than any other factor. In most cases this support develops during the process of approving the project and fundraising for the skatepark construction. Supervised skateparks can undermine progresses made in natural stewardship by superseding that feeling of ownership with a “sanctioned” authority figure.
There are two sound approaches to exploring the option of supervision. One method is to open the park with supervision for one month to help manage the excited crowds that will be jockeying for access. After the initial intensity fades, remove the monitor and assess the results with random site visits. The second method—and the one that we recommend—is to open the park without supervision and allow natural leadership among the regular park users to help check unwanted activities at the park.
Park agencies should continue to meet with the principle advocates of the skatepark even after the ribbon-cutting. This will provide the Parks Department with insight into the activities at the park and be the group that can best identify equitable solutions to common problems.
Your goal is to provide the skaters in your community with a safe central place to skate. Since you’ve overcome the hurdle of actually building the park, the specifics of how to operate it would seem to be a much easier problem to solve. Otherwise, the skaters will be back in the streets, where the number of injuries and liability for the city will be higher.
Another option is to enlist some mature skaters to volunteer a few hours a day to be the monitors. The skatepark visitors will exhibit a tendency to respect the supervision of a fellow skater more so than someone from “outside” of skateboarding.
The Tony Hawk Foundation does not provide sustaining funds for parks—only construction. And unfortunately we don’t know of other foundations that issue grants for sustaining funds (i.e. on-going costs for staff). The only suggestion in that regard that we can make is to seek funding for skate monitors through foundations that support after-school programs.
Can we use a general contractor to build our skatepark?
Absolutely, but investigate their experience in skateparks first. Do not hire a builder who has not built at least a few quality skateparks. Often, after months or years of petitioning, fundraising, and designing, the resulting skatepark plans are handed off to a general contractor who has never built a skatepark but comes in at the end of the long process, misinterprets the plan or decides to cut corners, and builds something completely unskateable.
Even well-intended contractors can completely underestimate the need for precise and exacting construction. To many people, including construction professionals, skateparks can look like creative, artistic, improvisational landscapes. In reality, functional skateparks are the result of an intimate understanding of how skateboarders get and use speed, how they turn, traffic flow, and the nuanced characteristics of the forms. Small errors and oversights in construction can easily make whole sections of a skatepark unusable or even dangerous. Again, it is imperative that your skatepark contractor possess experience building successful, quality skateparks.
To avoid the problem of unqualified general contractors bidding on “easy” skatepark projects, the Tony Hawk Foundation requires that cities that apply for THF grants hire experienced skatepark designers and builders.
What rules and policies should our skatepark have?
Skatepark rules can vary widely from park to park. Rules will be based on state and local laws, insurance requirements, and community interest. Some parks have lengthy rules governing everything from general behavior, (“Respect yourself and others”), to specific notices, (“Open from dawn until dusk”). Some skateparks simply read “skate at your own risk” and leave it at that, and many don’t post rules at all.
Typically, state and local ordinances governing the skatepark are required by law to be posted. This often results in large signs with tiny type filled with code numbers and legalese, and often are ignored, or just not understood. In places where such signage is required, it’s a good idea to post a shorter list of basic rules on a separate sign that’s more legible.
We recommend not using rules that are ungovernable or subjective. Rules like, “this is your skatepark, please keep it clean” result in other critical rules being dismissed as vague suggestions rather than specific requirements. A person that is prone to throwing their trash around is not likely to be swayed by a sign, and someone with a tendency to use the trash can will not need a sign to remind them to do so. Rules like this are superfluous and will be routinely dismissed by park visitors and undermine the importance of the other rules.
Helmet and pad requirements are at the heart of most skatepark rules conversations. Helmet compliance is difficult in regions where park policies are inconsistent. When parks near each other have different rules requiring helmets and/or pads, the rules can seem arbitrary to park visitors and treated as mere recommendations. Regional rules consistency is important in achieving high levels of compliance.
Enforcement must be equally consistent. Agency enforcement, be it park rangers, police, or employees, should ensure that they’re treating infractions consistently and across agency lines. Inconsistent enforcement sends a confusing message to skatepark patrons and will reduce compliance.
It is important that the scale of enforcement be appropriate for the infraction. Helmet and pad infractions are common in any skatepark but the method for improving compliance rates is not steep fines but rather a tiered approach. Multiple infractions by regular park visitors may be treated more severely than for first-time offenders or infrequent visitors. Statistically, skateboarding is statistically safer than many sports that do not require head or joint protection, so rules requiring helmets and pads are often perceived as beneficial to the Parks Department more than the actual skateboarder.
Severe and inconsistent enforcement will usually displace users that might otherwise want to use the skatepark. Skaters that feel abused by the authoritative treatment will simply return to skating in the streets where helmets are not required (or unenforceable). If the risk of a ticket is the same inside the skatepark as it is on the streets, a disgruntled skater will simply skate wherever he or she likes and take their chances. When this is the case, the skatepark has failed to meet its primary goal of providing a safe place for youth to recreate.
Do you provide grants for communities outside the United States?
Since 2002 the Tony Hawk Foundation has been helping communities in the United States develop public skateboard parks, and while the number of cities seeking help has grown, our resources to help them have not kept up. At this time we are unable to expand our programs beyond the U.S. We are happy to provide technical assistance and offer our advice as you pursue your skatepark.
You may find information on the following sites applicable to your fundraising goals:
UK: The United Kingdom Skateboarding Association (UKSA, at www.ukskate.org.uk), contains lots of useful advice for skateparks and skateboarding in the UK.
Scotland: Skateboard Scotland (skateboardscotland.com) is a membership-based organization set up to improve and develop the skateboarding scene across Scotland. Their mission includes encouraging the development of world-class facilities, helping community groups get local skateparks built, running competitions and events, attracting international interest, and much more.
Other countries typically have their own non-government organizations devoted to the advancement of skateboarding and skateparks. While the scope of their missions may vary--from country-wide to a single specific skatepark--most will be happy to share useful information with others.
Would the Tony Hawk Foundation consider funding my project even though it’s not exactly a skatepark?
The focus of our mission is to help low-income areas construct public skateparks. At this time we are unable to expand our focus or our funding to projects outside of the construction of public skateparks.
Do you give grants only for concrete parks?
No. Although most of the best skateparks worldwide are made of concrete, we recognize that in some cases modular ramps are a suitable solution.
We recommend that you do not use price as a factor in determining the choice of materials for your skatepark. For permanent skateparks it is typically better and more cost-effective to create a smaller concrete skatepark than a larger modular one. Modular equipment is a suitable solution when a slab currently exists and the community is prepared to address the maintenance demands. Ultimately, many communities that originally purchased modular equipment choose to replace them with concrete facilities after the equipment expires.
Can I apply if we already have a small or rundown park?
Yes, but the odds are against your receiving a grant. Most of our applications come from communities where the kids have nowhere to skate, and they have priority.
Can we qualify for a grant if we plan to charge kids to skate?
No. The vast majority of communities are managing to build public skateparks that do not charge fees. If they can do it, so can you. Similarly, organizations with indoor skateparks are similarly excluded, even if they have “no refusal” policies.
May we apply for a grant to finance such amenities as bleachers, lights and bathrooms?
Because we are besieged by applications from towns where the kids have no place to skate, we do not provide grants for amenities. Tony Hawk Foundation grant funds must be used for construction of the actual skatepark. That said, we strongly suggest that you include room in your budget for such extras, just as you would with any public park.
May I submit pictures and video links in my application?
You may elaborate, but don’t go overboard. In fact, we encourage you to download the MS Word worksheet version of our application and then type your responses directly into the file so that you can “copy and paste” your edited answers into the actual online application. We also recommend including newspaper articles or other items that may indicate community support for the skatepark. We cannot accept digital media at this time, such as DVDs, but are happy to visit Web sites and other online sources.
Do we qualify for a grant if we intend to require pads and/or helmets?
The issue of safety in skateboarding is one that each community that opens a park deals with based on their own customs and tolerances. Those decisions are often based on state and local laws. In states like Colorado and Oregon, safety equipment is recommended or required, but many parks don’t seem to enforce the rule. In California, on the other hand, state and local laws generally require the use of safety equipment, and most California communities enforce those laws in varying degrees.
The Tony Hawk Foundation encourages safe skateboarding. Skaters themselves generally know their own limitations, and they know best what safety equipment they’ll need. While local laws don’t usually list wrist guards as required equipment, many skaters choose to wear them as a precaution.
We do not require THF grant recipients to adhere to any particular rules regarding pads, we encourage them to allow skaters maximum freedom and flexibility within the limitations of established local laws. Skating in the safety of a skatepark is inherently safer than skating in the street. The use of helmets is an added benefit that we strongly encourage, regardless of whether or not it is required by law
What determines low-income?
We primarily use Median Household Income statistics from the latest completed U.S. Census study to determine the economic status of an applicant community. Bear in mind that the Median Household Income in the U.S. is about $42,000, based on Census 2000, and we almost never award grants to communities with income levels above that threshold.
What do you mean by "at-risk" youth?
We give priority to communities that can document a high degree of social problems among teens and pre-teens, such as drug use, high drop-out rates, high arrest rates, childhood obesity, teen pregnancy, free or reduced school lunches, and the like.
When will I be contacted regarding the status of my grant application?
The foundation’s Board Of Directors meets to determine each semester’s grant recipients about six to eight weeks after that semester’s application deadline. All applicants are notified of the Board’s decision within one week of that meeting via the phone or e-mail information supplied on the application.
Can we reapply if our initial application was rejected, or if we received a small grant in the past?
Yes. If you have not received a Tony Hawk Foundation grant for more than $1,000 you may continue to reapply. In the past, our policy was to allow communities to apply twice. But even those communities who were not previously awarded a THF grant and that were informed that they’re no longer eligible to apply may do so. To review THF grant criteria, please visit Skatepark Grants.
Can Tony come to our grand opening?
Not likely. In very rare cases, he has attended grand openings, but only for parks that have received substantial donations from the Foundation. These appearances are generally based on his availability and not due to his personal interest or based on a request by the community.