LOVE Park Frequently Asked QuestionsOn this page:
- Is LOVE Park really world-famous?
- Do we need LOVE Park and the city's other planned skate parks?
- Are skateboarders a small special-interest group?
- Have the renovations made LOVE Park unskateable?
- Why was LOVE Park closed to skateboarders?
- Does Philadelphia want to attract young people?
- What is the history of the skateboarding ban?
- What is the present state of the law?
- Who uses LOVE Park?
- Did the skateboarders bother people having lunch in LOVE Park?
- How do the neighbors feel about skateboarding in LOVE Park?
- Why did ushistory.org get involved in LOVE Park?
Is LOVE Park really world-famous?
LOVE Park is well recognized internationally as one of the three best skate parks in the world!
Before the skateboarding ban was enforced tourists came from as far away as China and Australia just to visit the famous park. A parent with skateboarding children wrote, "My sons brought their skateboards along on a family trip to Ireland. The Irish boys they met had one question: ‘What's it like to skate LOVE?’"
LOVE Park was the perfect skate park, in the heart of a bustling major U.S. city. It has spectacular views and access to rail lines and subways. With Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture it also has the important connection to Philadelphia’s name and image: the City of Brotherly Love.
Many of the world’s top professional skateboarders have practiced in LOVE Park. Several made Philadelphia their home because of LOVE. ESPN writes of LOVE "It's a skateboarder’s dream and has been featured in every skate mag you've ever even thought of reading."
ESPN held its X Games in Philadelphia primarily because of LOVE Park. The X Games were held in Philadelphia for two consecutive years, while it has never stayed longer than one year in any other city. There is a popular video game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II, which features LOVE Park as one of its skating terrains. Many young people around the world learned of LOVE Park through the video game and yearned to experience the real thing.
LOVE Park is so renowned that a significant number of college students and young residents moved to Philadelphia, solely because of LOVE Park. It has become a symbol of Philadelphia for young people worldwide. Over the past decade LOVE Park has attracted so many skateboarders that Philadelphia has gained an international reputation as the American capital for street skating.
Do we need LOVE Park and the city's other planned skate parks?
Yes! Cities around the country are experiencing an explosion in the popularity of skateboarding. Other cities are building skate parks in their centers to attract new residents and appeal to young people, skater and non-skater, alike. Philadelphia has one of the three most famous skate parks in the world, with existing iconic fame.
After enforcing the skateboarding ban in 2002 the City proposed building a new skate park by the Art Museum to replace LOVE. It is clear that while this new park is much needed, it cannot replace the symbolic stature of LOVE Park, and its international attraction.
To accommodate Philadelphia’s ever-growing skateboarding population, the city granted skaters permission to build their own skatepark, FDR Park, under I-95 in South Philadelphia and is planning other skate parks around the city. The X Games opened its own commercial skate park in the Franklin Mills Mall. These parks are given greater meaning by having LOVE Park as their anchor. Without these other satellite parks, LOVE Park would be too crowded. With a network of satellite parks centered around LOVE Park, Philadelphia can cater to the needs of today’s young people and maximize its attraction for new residents.
Are skateboarders a small special-interest group?
No. According to American Sports Data, Inc., there were 12,459,000 skateboarders in 2001, a 73% increase over three years. That's more than baseball's 11,405,000 participants in the same year, a 7% decrease over three years and a 25% decrease over 14 years. The numbers are huge and the trend is clear.
Have the renovations made LOVE Park unskateable?
No. While the renovations made LOVE Park less desirable for skating, they left its critical features. LOVE Park was perfect for street skating because of its numerous granite ledges, benches and curving stairs. The most important part was the large cascade of steps, circling the fountain at the center of the park. The renovations left these steps completely intact. The ledges are still there, though the City placed planters in front of some of them, making skating more difficult. The renovations removed the granite benches and replaced them with wooden ones. Another appeal of LOVE Park was its large size, good for multiple skate sessions at once. The City planted grass over some of the park, decreasing the amount of skateable space, but not by any means eliminating the space.
The City and Republican mayoral challenger Sam Katz have expressed concern that returning skateboarding to LOVE Park would negate the $800,000 spent on the renovations. This is not so. If skateboarding were legalized today, without spending any additional money, LOVE Park would still be one of the nation’s top spots for skateboarding.
Why was LOVE Park closed to skateboarders?
This is a difficult question with several conflicting responses and no clear-cut answer. Skateboarding was illegal in LOVE Park and many other public plazas in Philadelphia since 2000. The ban was enforced in LOVE Park after an $800,000 renovation in 2002. The renovations came just before Sunoco’s annual Welcome America! Festival.
Before the renovations the park had a rat problem so severe that the City passed a ban on food in LOVE Park. Homeless people often occupied the park’s benches. Recently, the City and the Center City District came up with several plans to "improve" LOVE Park, leading to the 2002 renovations.
The City planted grass and flowers and installed pink planters and trash bins, located along the ledges so beloved by skateboarders. The renovation exterminated the rats and replaced the granite benches with wooden ones, with center bars making them uncomfortable for sleeping. After the renovation, the park had a permanent police watch with a $300 fine for skateboarding.
The efforts of the renovation have often been linked to the three entities perceived as undesirable: the rats, homeless people and skateboarders. Some reports also connect the renovations and skating ban to the opening of the new Phoenix luxury apartment building, just beside LOVE Park.
Mayor Street’s spokesman, Frank Keel said of the LOVE Park renovation, "The mayor is just tired of looking at this battered, broken concrete shell." Terrie Rouse, the City’s consultant in the renovation said its purpose was "to revitalize something that’s deteriorated." The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, "The problem is the city's priorities. Its main goal was to get rid of skateboarders; it wasn’t to make LOVE Park a good urban space."
The Mayor’s office gave conflicting responses as to the role of skateboarding in the renovations. One of Mayor Street’s public relations people reported that removing the skateboarders "was the purpose of the renovations." But Frank Keel, spoke of the "ongoing misperception that the renovation of LOVE Park…was about driving skateboarders out." The City promised to help find a new locale for skateboarders, but has not committed to paying for that space.
The Fairmount Park Commission Chief of Staff said that before the renovations LOVE Park was not "100 percent safe," due to the skateboarders. The City has also cited safety for pedestrians and damage by the skateboarders as part of their reasons for the renovations. The City officially reported one million dollars worth of damage to the park, inflicted by skateboarders.
Since the LOVE Park renovations the City continuously voiced its concern and support for the City’s skateboarders, but remains unwilling to reverse its decision in LOVE Park.
Does Philadelphia want to attract young people?
Yes. Philadelphia’s leaders have recently created several initiatives to attract new students and young professionals. These include campaigns to advertise the hippest parts of the city and programs to create thousands of new internships. The Philadelphia Daily News ran a series of articles on how to "grow the city." The Pennsylvania Economic League recently held a forum attended by over 300 members of the Philadelphia business community to discuss ways to attract new residents.
Recently many U.S. cities have created programs and initiatives to attract college students and young professionals to re-energize their downtown economies. For a half century many American cities have suffered from blight and population decline, as residents moved out to the suburbs. Inner city economies have shifted recently from manufacturing and labor to knowledge and technology.
Much of this new knowledge-based economy revolves around universities and research facilities. Today, urban centers are becoming increasingly popular places for young people to live and work. As cities recognize that young people are crucial to their well-being, wealth and future they seek new ways to make themselves attractive to young residents and to retain recent college graduates.
In the 2000 U.S. Census data, Philadelphia was one of only two major cities in the country still losing population. Philadelphia has the fifth largest population in the nation. Yet, according to a report published by Professor Richard Florida in the Greater Philadelphia Regional Review, Philadelphia ranks 18th in the nation in numbers of knowledge workers. A USA Today study reports that Philadelphia ranks eighth in the nation in numbers of college students and 11th in regional student concentration.
Today Philadelphia is competing with every other city to cash in on the knowledge-based economy. Other cities have already figured out the connection between skateboarding and attracting youth. Louisville, Kentucky’s city government built a skateboard park in the center of its city. The park has proven extremely successful in attracting new residents and energizing the downtown. College students are attracted to cities that are seen as friendly to skateboarders, and therefore friendly to youth. Philadelphia already has a world-famous skate park. It simply needs to reopen it.
What is the history of the skateboarding ban?
In 1994 the City’s Managing Director, Joe Martz, wrote a bill banning skateboarding from the Municipal Services Building Plaza, next to LOVE Park. In 2000 Councilman Michael Nutter proposed another bill banning skateboarding from all public property. On March 16, 2000, City Council passed bill 147, municipal law 10-610, "prohibiting skateboarding on all public property unless otherwise authorized." The bill listed specific areas where "no person shall use a skateboard," including LOVE Park. This bill officially first banned skateboarding in LOVE Park, however, it was lightly enforced there. In 2002 the City closed LOVE Park for renovations and reopened it with a permanent police watch enforcing the $300 fine for skateboarding, specified in the 2000 law.
What is the present state of the law regarding skateboarding in LOVE Park and Center City Philadelphia?
Philadelphia City Law 10-610 states that skateboarding is presently illegal on all public and private property in Philadelphia. Skateboarding is legal on sidewalks, public streets and bike paths. The law specifically bans skateboarding in LOVE Park and the Municipal Services Plaza.
Who uses LOVE Park?
Since its dedication in 1967, LOVE Park has been home to a combination of business people, tourists and young people displaying impressive feats of athleticism. Starting in the 1980s skateboarders discovered the space, and began showing off equally impressive feats. In the 1990s some of the world’s top professional skateboarders practiced in LOVE Park. The daily lunch crowd watched athletes whom X Games fans around the world pay top dollar to see. About 200 skateboarders came to the park on an average weekend, before the skateboarding ban was enforced in 2002. Neighbors expressed concern that without the constant presence of skateboarders the park becomes desolate and unsafe at night.
LOVE Park is in the center of Philadelphia’s business district and has always been used by professionals for lunch and relaxation. In the late 1990s the lunch crowd thinned because of a City ban on food in the park, due to a rat problem. The park also housed the City’s Visitor’s Center (now moved to Independence Mall), and was always a first stop for tourists. Regional organizations hold rallies, events and picnics at LOVE Park. The City occasionally sponsors musical performances on its bandstand in the park.
Before the skateboarding ban was enforced the space came alive on the weekends. People from all over the region came to sit in LOVE Park, getting cooled off by the fountain. Children swam in the fountain, and sometimes their parents followed them in. Skateboarders practiced all around the park as other people sat on the benches, watching. LOVE Park was an extraordinary mixture of people of all ages and races. It was truly a remarkable urban phenomenon, a space where these different people enjoyed an afternoon, proud to be in the City of Brotherly Love.
Did the skateboarders bother people having lunch in LOVE Park?
While no formal study has yet been done on the attitudes of the lunch crowd, Philadelphia Weekly newspaper took an informal survey soon after the LOVE Park renovations, when the skateboarding ban was actively enforced. The Weekly talked to 40 people, 29 of them said that the skateboarders did not bother them, 11 were glad the skateboarders were no longer allowed. Of those 40 people, 39 said they frequented the park before the renovations, when the skateboarders were still there. A major argument for the success of the renovations was the ensuing increase in lunchers at the park. However, it likely had more to do with the ban on food, due to a rat problem, than the presence of the skateboarders.
How do the neighbors feel about skateboarding in LOVE Park?
The immediate neigbors of Love Park are the Logan Square residents. Logan Square Residents Association board member, Wylie Garcia, stated that the neighbors felt safe walking past Love Park at night due to the presence of all the skateboarders. She described it now, without the skaters, as "spooky." A Parkway highrise resident, who is also a member of the arts group that paints in Love Park said they really miss the skaters.
Why did ushistory.org get involved in LOVE Park?
The Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia publishes as ushistory.org. Our mission is to protect and preserve historic Philadelphia and to educate the public. We have a "Congress of Websites" devoted to many topics of history, including the Liberty Bell, which is globally recognized as an icon of freedom, in Philadelphia. We felt that LOVE Park held iconic status for the city of Philadelphia worldwide for a young generation of Americans. The history of Philadelphia now includes the history of LOVE Park. We fully support permitting skateboarders to again use this public resource. Our website is entirely nonpartisan. We welcome the support of all members of the community in this effort.