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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 2, 2004
Byline: Editorial


Editorial: For LOVE, Money

A wheel deal for Philly

Philadelphia, as you may have heard, is struggling. It's planning to close dozens of recreation centers, close fire stations and take other unpleasant steps to make budgetary ends meet.

So you'd think the good news that arrived yesterday would bring tears of gratitude to Mayor Street's eyes.

The owners of one of the nation's top skateboarding shoe companies, DC Shoes of Vista, Calif., came here to say they will give $1 million to support LOVE Park.

One million dollars, for a little Center City park barely a half block square? Yes, the deal is $100,000 a year, for 10 years, for maintenance and security at the park.

To grab this pot of money, the Street administration has to do just one small, sensible thing: Allow skateboarders back in the park they have made internationally famous — but only in the late afternoon and on weekends, so as not to annoy other park users.

So come on, mayor, you're the leader of a city struggling to be both financially stable and hip. How could you say no to this generous offer?

But in a stunningly backward move, he has.

Yesterday, city Managing Director Philip Goldsmith, sounding piqued, said months of negotiations on returning skateboarding to LOVE have now been "terminated." Street decided to ban skaters from the park two years ago and "we're very comfortable with that decision," said Goldsmith. He asked: Why doesn't DC Shoes donate the money to a still-undesigned and privately funded skate park on the Schuylkill River? Here's why:

Because LOVE is one of the places where the sport of "street" skateboarding was created. It's a mecca that skaters from around the world travel to see (spending their dollars here). It's a skating landmark "incomparable to nearly anyplace in the world," in the words of DC Shoes President Ken Block.

Because a savvy coalition of young professionals and skateboarding advocates have worked for a year to develop their smart solution of restricted skating hours at LOVE. They have answered all the city's concerns — about financing, about security, about safety, about liability.

Because the coalition's compromise has earned support from Street allies such as Councilwomen Jannie Blackwell and Blondell Reynolds Brown, and union leader John Dougherty.

Because the DC Shoes offer would do more than pay to fix any benches or tiles damaged by skaters. It would also allow the city to hire an additional park ranger for LOVE. In return, all the company would get is the right to use the name "Friends of LOVE Park" on a new line of shoes — something that would bring only more fame to a Philadelphia landmark.

The city really has run out of valid reasons for the LOVE Park ban. It's hard to shake the suspicion that the opposition stems from a perverse dislike of anything that's new or youthful.

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