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In the News Index

Source: The Sentinel
Date: June 3, 2004
Byline: Editorial


Skateboard grant hides an agenda

Can any city in this era of public deficits afford to turn up its nose at a free $1 million check?

Philadelphia is about to do just that.

A California shoe company held a press conference this week, waving around one of those big cardboard stunt checks we often see at such events, as part of its offer to contribute $100,000 a year for 10 years to maintain LOVE Park in downtown Philly. The city so far has not accepted the offer, and a spokeswoman for Mayor John Street told the Associated Press the city most likely would not.

Did we say this was free money? Sorry, there is one catch: The clothing company wants the city to reopen the park to skateboarding.

LOVE Park once was Mecca to the skateboarding set. Its low walls, benches and steps practically cried out to sidewalk surfers, who used the park's permanent features to develop many of the sport's more spectacular jumps and twirls.

As a result, the park has a worldwide reputation among skateboarders. The park was cited as a reason why the "X Games" were held in Philadelphia two years in a row, and at least one pro board rider actually moved to the city so he could work out in the famed park.

So what's the problem? Well, all those skateboarders' wacky antics took their toll on the park. The city was forced to refurbish it for safety reasons as well as its shabby appearance, and when they did, the boards were banished.

The mayor's office notes that the park is intended for the use of all downtown residents and visitors, given its location along a busy boulevard not far from the museum district. Skateboarding, while a valid use of the space, tends to crowd out folks who want to eat their lunch al fresco or just take a break from being cooped up in their offices or apartments.

The city hasn't ignored skateboarders, however. Plans are afoot to build a dedicated skateboarding park along the Schuylkill River not too far from LOVE Park in a lower-traffic area. Perhaps the clothing company might want to pledge its cash to that project, one that will benefit skateboarders as well as folks who might want to stay out of their way.

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