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Source: Daily Pennsylvanian
Date: July 7, 2005
Byline: Mollie braverman


Boarders get first look at new park

Four years after closure of Love Park to skateboarders, new spot's design unveiled.

Last week, skaters — boards in tow — joined architects and city officials at the University of the Arts for the unveiling of the final plans for the Schuylkill River Skatepark to be located along the eastern Schuylkill riverbank close to the Museum of Art.

Joshua Nims, the executive director of the Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, called the unveiling of the final plans a "big step in the journey" of the skatepark's creation.

Organizers hope to gain corporate sponsors by October to cover the estimated $5 million cost of the skatepark in order to break ground next spring.

The project comes as part of the city's efforts to revitalize the landscape along the Schuylkill River.

Nims aims to gain sponsors by "selling the skateboard culture of Philadelphia" as well as the "awesome neighborhood" where the skatepark will be located.

"Who is not going to be compelled to write a check for that?" Nims said.

Frances Cichetti, State Representative Babette Josephs' Chief of Staff, attended the event and lauded FPSF and its partners for their work on the project.

"Skateboarding is a sport that can encourage and unite us all," Cichetti said.

Nims underscored the importance of skateboarding and the future skatepark to Philadelphia. He cited the park as a way that the city could combat the oft-lamented exodus of college graduates from Philadelphia.

Architects Anthony Bracali of AB Arch LLC and Scott Todd of Synterra Ltd. presented their nearly finalized plans in a series of detailed renderings, emphasizing their desire to make the skatepark appeal to both skaters and passers-by alike.

This represents a "new way of thinking about skateboarding and public space," Bracali said.

This spring, architects worked with an advisory body of skateboarders after presenting initial design plans in January and March. The newest proposal combined two previously shown designs — a circular "spiral" and a linear "shard" scheme.

The architects incorporated more skate ground and less grass than in the initial plans. The new design also established a closer connection between the upper and lower levels of the park.

When presenting the new renderings, the architects emphasized their goals of creating a skatepark that was not too contrived, after reaching the conclusion that the best skateparks were not constructed but rather are found by skateboarders themselves.

Todd told the audience to think of the space as "not so much a skatepark, more an urban park for skaters."

Brian Nugent, president of Skatenerd — a multimedia design firm in charge of the project's community outreach — helped Bracali and Todd by presenting their renderings from a skater's perspective, addressing the skaters' concerns regarding surface materials and the position of rails and statues. Nugent wrapped up the session by answering skaters' questions and addressing specific concerns about the design.

Most of the skateboarders who attended the meeting appeared to be enthusiastic about the plans for the skatepark.

"Gonzo," a skateboarder who worked for the park's advocacy and outreach group, said, "I'm pretty stoked about it. I think that it will cover all of the basics of what is a real street skate spot ? even though they're usually found."

He also added that he believes that the park will attract skateboarders to Philadelphia. "Kids all over will be real psyched," he said.

Other skateboarders in the audience were unimpressed by the final designs that were displayed. Scott Kmiec felt that the plans were too narrow.

"It's really hard. They're catering to a certain type of skater. For the amount of space and money, they could be more inclusive toward other types of skaters," Kmiec said.

Referring to the city's 2001 ban on skateboarding in several public spaces, including John F. Kennedy Plaza, more widely known in the skateboarding world as Love Park, Kmiec added, "It's a reflection on what a bad mayor John Street is. Now they need to raise another $5 million after ruining Love Park. They could have saved $5 million and a lot of trouble."

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