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In the News Index

Source: Times Leader
Date: June 1, 2004
Byline: Michael Rubinkam


Shoe company donates $1M to reopen LOVE Park to skateboarders

PHILADELPHIA — Skateboarders throughout the nation have been pining for one of the sport's most revered public venues — LOVE Park — ever since Mayor John Street declared its granite ledges, benches and staircases off-limits to them in 2002.

On Tuesday, as dozens of cheering skateboarders looked on, a California shoe company pledged $1 million to return skateboarding to the park where many of the sport's professionals honed their skills.

DC Shoes of Vista, Calif., announced that it would donate $100,000 a year for 10 years to pay for maintenance, security and upkeep of the park, which had attracted skateboarders worldwide before the ban.

"Baseball has Wrigley Field. Skateboarding has LOVE Park," said DC Shoes President Ken Block, who presented a ceremonial check — made out to the City of Philadelphia — at a news conference in the park Tuesday. "It's absolutely irreplaceable."

But the funding is contingent on skateboarding's return to the park, a prospect that's very much in doubt. The mayor's spokeswoman said Tuesday that the city has no intention of cashing the check from DC, a subsidiary of Quiksilver Apparel.

"That would be a big 'No,'" Barbara Grant said. "We don't support skating in LOVE Park. It damages the park, it creates difficulty for other people who use the park for different reasons, it creates an unsafe situation."

Street said in imposing the ban that skateboarders had been causing significant damage to the granite plaza near City Hall. Although the city had indicated its willingness to reconsider, Grant said Street remains committed to building a skateboarding park on the banks of the Schuylkill River — and keeping skateboarders out of LOVE Park.

Critics of the ban, including City Council members, said it is damaging Philadelphia's efforts to attract young people. The city's population has been declining for decades.

"I am disappointed once again in the administration for the lack of vision, the lack of caring," said city Controller Jonathan Saidel, who appeared at the news conference wearing a T-shirt over his business suit that said "Phila. City Government for LOVE Park!"

Andrew Hohns, a spokesman for Friends of LOVE Park, said the group has been working on a compromise with the city managing director's office. The group is pushing a proposal that would allow skateboarding in LOVE Park after 3 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends; provide for a monitor to enforce safety rules and prevent skateboarding during times when it is not allowed; and establish a fund to pay for maintenance.

JFK Plaza, known to locals as LOVE Park because it is home to the well-known Robert Indiana sculpture, boasts low walls, benches and steps that had made it an ideal spot for skateboarding. It was featured in a video game and credited as one reason the X Games were held in Philadelphia in 2001 and 2002.

Pro skateboarder Josh Kalis — who moved to Philadelphia to take advantage of LOVE Park but moved away after skateboarding was banned there — said he misses it.

"This is where I met the coolest people in the world," he said.

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