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In the News Index

Source: Kansas City Star
Date: October 2, 2005
Byline: Patrick Joseph

Mainstream America rolling along with skateboarding

Skateboarding, long considered the exclusive domain of street punks and miscreants, has gone mainstream. For proof, consider the proliferation of skate parks around the country.

About 1,000 skate parks are spread across the country, and hundreds more are being built each year.

Tony Hawk, the sport's answer to Lance Armstrong, has a charitable foundation dedicated to getting more parks built, particularly in communities that can't readily afford them. Since its inception in 2002, the foundation has awarded more than $1 million to 260 projects.

The finest examples are built by skater-owned companies solely devoted to the design and construction of skate parks — outfits like Grindline in Seattle, Dreamland in Portland, Ore., and Team Pain in Winter Park, Fla.

Skate tourism has put many small towns on the map. Trinidad, Colo. (population 9,000), Hailey, Idaho (population 7,000), and Aumsville, Ore. (population 3,000), have world-class parks that bring visitors from across the country.

It's not just small towns that are building skate parks. In a bid to attract more young professionals and creative types to the city, Louisville, Ky., opened a skate park right smack downtown. The 40,000-square-foot Louisville Extreme Park boasts a 24-foot-high full pipe, several pools and various "vert ramps."

Oregon is the top draw for road-tripping skateboarders, with hundreds of top-notch parks scattered around the state. And then there's Portland's legendary Burnside skate park, which was built in 1990 under a city bridge without permits or permission.

Frustrated by a lack of places to skate, the park's builders just started pouring concrete, then waited for the authorities to shut them down. The clampdown never came, however. Instead, the city embraced the project.

Not every municipality has been so accommodating. Take the case of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love hasn't shown much for its skateboarding brethren, aggressively enforcing a ban on the activity in Love Park (also known as JFK Plaza), an area long coveted by street skaters.

Even in Philly, however, the tide is shifting in skateboarding's favor. At an open-house event in June, city planners unveiled the final design for a $5 million skate park to be built on the Schuylkill River near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Calling it a "gateway to the waterfront," planners say the proposed park is designed to appeal to skateboarders and nonskateboarders alike. It doesn't get any more mainstream than that.

©2005 Universal Press Syndicate homepage

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