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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 17, 2005
Byline: Julie Stoiber


Skateboarders ready to roll through the city

Thousands are expected for 'Wild in the Streets.'

Hordes of skateboarders are expected to jam city streets and public spaces on Tuesday for "Wild in the Streets," which could live up to its name if the organizer's estimate of 2,000 to 5,000 participants is on the mark.

Professional skateboarders will lead the throngs on a chase through Philadelphia to a series of locations that will remain secret until Tuesday, a day that was already shaping up to be hectic in Center City, with biodiversity activists planning a multipronged protest against BIO 2005, the huge biotech show at the Convention Center.

"I don't know if it'll be crazy or tame," said Robbie Reid, manager of Nocturnal Skateboard Shop at 610 S. Third St., a launch point for Wild in the Streets. "We've had a lot of calls."

Philadelphia is at the heart of a global Go Skateboarding Day organized by Emerica, a California action-sport shoe company, to draw attention to the worldwide dearth of downtown skate parks. The city's official skate site is FDR Park in South Philadelphia.

Emerica provided an online primer for people wanting to organize and promote a Wild event in their city. In Philadelphia, though, the company took the lead, generating buzz by promising that members of its pro team would be here, including Heath Kirchart, Austin Stephens and Bryan Herman.

"Kids'll be freaking out," Reid said. "It would be like if Allen Iverson was playing basketball on the street."

It is no mystery why Philadelphia was singled out. LOVE Park, one of the most revered skateboard destinations in the world, has been off-limits since Mayor Street banned the sport there in 2002.

"It's been in so many skateboard videos," Matt Sharkey, Emerica spokesman, said of LOVE Park, officially called JFK Plaza. "There are people who have it tattooed on their bodies."

Is it on Tuesday's itinerary?

"That's a fair assumption," Sharkey said.

Inspector L.B. Rebstock, commander of the Philadelphia Police Department's traffic division, said police were aware of Wild in the Streets.

"If it's a minor inconvenience, we'll treat it as a minor inconvenience," Rebstock said in an interview. "If it becomes something more, if it becomes property damage, we'll take a different tack."

Sharkey said that Emerica did get a permit from the city "for a public group meeting with skateboards" and that it did specify the locations of the day's events.

Emerica based its estimate of participants on hits to its Web site (www.emericawildinthestreets.com) and on its inaugural event last year in New York City, which drew 1,500 skateboarders with limited publicity.

Skateboarders will congregate at noon at Nocturnal and nearby Elite Sports Inc., 611 South St., to pick up itineraries for the event, which will last until late afternoon.

"We've had calls from as far away as Michigan," Nocturnal's Reid said.

Frustrated skateboarders have called to say they couldn't find hotel rooms because of the biotech conference. Concerned parents have called for reassurance.

"'Little Johnny is 14 years old. Will it be supervised? Are the neighborhoods dodgy?'" mimicked Reid, a native of Liverpool, England.

One thing no one is sure about is whether the crowds will split off and do their own thing, or follow Team Emerica, Pied Piper style.

"There'll be lots of people riding cover, that's the good thing," said Erin Meyers, 31, a street skater from South Philadelphia who plans to take part.

Similar skateboarding events are planned for more than 100 other cities, Sharkey said, from Santiago, Chile, and Antwerp, Belgium, to Long Valley, N.J.

ONLINE EXTRA

For a schedule of events on Go Skateboarding Day, go to http://go.philly.com/goskateboarding

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