I had an interesting thought today about skate spots and I somehow found the need to write this.. So here you are : I was driving around in my Ford Focus in Savannah back in May and I saw a couple of skaters getting ticketed for skating a spot downtown. We all know the shitty feeling and frustration that comes along with the ticket and the encounter with police. It happens all too often and the police officers response always is something like, “isn’t there a skatepark where you can go to” or “why aren’t you at the skatepark down the road?” Unfortunately, most of our treasured spots are overrun with security and we often run the risk of being kicked out or ticketed by pigs. Skateparks are dope and we are eternally grateful for them but we will always flock back to the place where skateboarding all started; THE STREETS! So where I am going with all of this?
What if skate spots were being built by cities and companies instead of skateparks? Hear me out real quick. There are around 3,500 skateparks in the US and out of the 3,007 counties, there are 1900 without skateparks at all (according to the Tony Hawk Foundation). A majority of cities don’t even have skateparks. Why is it that every single town and city in the country has multiple basketball courts, soccer fields and football fields but each state only has an average of 8 skateparks state-wide? Well, first off, skateboarding isn’t as widely accepted as soccer, football, basketball, hockey or any of the mainstream sports. I don’t even consider skateboarding a sport; It is more of an art form, a way of expression and a tool for understanding. It has only recently started to gain popularity again outside of the skateboarding community due to rise of social media and the introduction of cheaper broadcasting technology that allows for the streaming of live skate contests. The introduction of skateboarding into the 2020(now 2021) Tokyo Olympics has also fueled the rising interest in our art form but the truth in the matter is that people on the outside truly don’t care enough, at least not yet they don’t.
Although I could write down a huge list of reasons why there aren’t as many skateparks as there are fields and courts, the most obvious reason is money. City governments refusal to back skateboarding facilities, and public skateparks with funding leads to more skateboarders on the streets, trespassing and “violating” property (all of the things they don’t want us doing). In our defense, the streets and skate spots were around a hell of a lot longer than the first skateparks and while skateparks were being built, pioneers like Gonz and Tommy Guerrero were making a new name for skateboarding by skating all that they had - THE STREETS! That is how it has always been but now we have an opportunity to evolve skate spots into something more! " In skateboarding, you're never bigger than the streets." Rob Dyrdek
If money is the issue, then this could be an alternative to help fix the amount of money needed to create a place for skateboarders to safely spend their time without interfering with pedestrian life or city regulations. Instead of building million dollar skateparks, why not reincarnate the idea of DIY skate spots into a city approved location for skateboarders. It would cost a lot less money and would allow for a larger number of safe skate locations for skateboarders. Cities would save money and skateboarders would have realistic street spots to skate without having to worry about getting kicked out or ticketed by police. Skate spots have time and time again been the place where skateboarders have proven themselves in the industry so why not focus on where the history started? This could be an opportunity to get city approved skate spots in underprivileged areas around the country and an opportunity to give skateboarders in low populated areas secure places to skate.
A 3,000 square foot skatepark costs $135,000 at the average rate of $45 per square foot. LES skatepark is a 20,800 square feet skatepark. Just imagine the amount of money that costs. If you couldn’t do the quick math, that adds up to $936,000. A city like New York can afford to pay something like that but cities in suburban and rural areas housing skateboarding communities have little funding to rely on from their city councils. A 40 square foot skate spot would only add up to rough $1800. Yes, that is small but it is enough space to build a nice concrete pyramid and some ledges at a public park or a separate secure area in the town/city. It is enough to create a new stair set or a gap, some many pads and space for flat. Imagine dozens of smaller, recognized and city approved spots spread throughout your town or city. It would give skateboarders more options and foster a better relationship between the cities and the skaters that populate them. Not to mention, it would reduce interactions between skateboarders and police while also reducing property damage to city buildings. Of course skateparks will always serve their purpose but I think this could be a good alternative for cities to answer the needs of skateboarders while also saving money and adhering to public decency. Most cities don’t recognize skateboarding for the potential it has and most people don’t see how beneficial skateboarding is to communities of youth growing up across the country.
Just look at the NYC skate community for an example : In early September of 2019, the NYC skate community came together to petition against the destruction of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. After over 10,000 signatures were added to the petition and Council Member Carlina Rivera was expected to be at a rally the night before the park was to be demolished, the city announced to leave the park as is. Skateboarding fosters community connection within the youth and provides them within an extra-curricular activity that teaches them morality and discipline. You can ask any skateboarder you know and they will tell you how much skateboarding has taught them. It is life long tool and teacher for all of us skateboarders and if all of the cities around the country would realize that then maybe, the stigma of ‘douche-bag skateboarders’ would be eliminated.
Sure, there are always going to be assholes in any industry that you work in but skateboarding is primarily about love and progression; it’s about self-enlightenment and self love. It teaches you how to get back up again and how to adapt to your surroundings. It evolves you in a positive way and lets you see in a creative light that few people have the ability to see. Skateboarding is NOT about hate and destruction, it is about living life to the fullest and seeing the good within the bad. That is what most people fail to see! They see a skateboarder grinding a hubba down 7 stair on the side of a building and think “they’re destroying property” but the skateboarder sees a challenge they are trying to overcome. They see a trick in their head and the things they need to do to land that trick and in that moment in time they are in a completely different world. Just think, What if the 7 stair hubbas and skate spots around our country were being made for us by the cities?
Ben Berkowitz breaks down the story of how New Haven's underground Temple Street garage was trasnfomed into a DIY and gives tips about the politics of working with your local town government to bring skateboarding to your community in new ways.
For the first event of our Down the Line contest series, we have teamed up with the infamous Looney Tunes in West Babylon to put together a one of a kind game of skate tournament.