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Developmental Scenarios

There are several common ways that skateparks are developed. Here are a few of them.

Design-Bid-Build

The “traditional” process used for creating public skateparks.

  1. Skatepark advocates successfully build community support for the skatepark.
  2. Advocates conduct grassroots fundraising campaign.
  3. Location is discussed and agreed upon.
  4. City outlines project scope.
  5. City issues Requests for Information from select designers.
  6. City hires designer.
  7. Designers conduct community design meetings.
  8. Final design and construction documents delivered to City.
  9. Fundraising concludes.
  10. City publishes bid announcement.
  11. Builder is hired.
  12. Construction begins.

Design-Build

The optimal process for creating public skateparks.

  1. Skatepark advocates successfully build community support for the skatepark.
  2. Advocates conduct grassroots fundraising campaign.
  3. Location is discussed and agreed upon.
  4. Fundraising concludes.
  5. City outlines project scope.
  6. City issues Requests for Proposals.
  7. Vendor proposals received and reviewed.
  8. Vendor hired to design and build the skatepark.
  9. Vendor conducts community design meetings.
  10. Construction begins.

Sub-contract

The process used when a general contractor (GC) and/or a landscape architect (LA) is in charge of the overall park development. A sub-contracted project can be design-bid-build or design-build. It simply means that the skatepark is not being contracted directly between the City and the skatepark professional but rather being managed by an intermediary.

  1. GC/LA conducts community design workshops.
  2. Skatepark advocates lobby for the skatepark as part of the larger park development.
  3. GC/LA finalize design.
  4. GC/LA hires skatepark designer and/or design-builder.
  5. Construction begins.

Design-Build

Design-build, or D/B, is the simplest approach to skatepark design and construction, and tends to produce the highest quality facilities in the least amount of time. Some experts claim D/B is 33% faster than design-bid-build, or D/B/B. Administrative costs are also reduced with this process, and that saves money. It is the optimal approach to skatepark procurement.

The term, design-build, describes a hiring scenario where one company is hired by a City to perform both design and construction services. The city hires the skatepark company who then handles everything. A primary benefit to D/B is that the same company that meets with the community to assess their skatepark desires and needs are the same people in the field building that park.

Unfortunately, many cities prohibit D/B practices for things like skateparks due to state or local regulations. Design-build is a capital improvement process typically reserved for public art and structures so specialized that only the design should be building it. The regulations that often prevent D/B processes is intended to provide greater opportunity to companies that would like to bid on the project and (as a result, hopefully) create a more competitive bidding atmosphere. To find out if design-build is permissible in your town, you’ll need to contact City Hall. (Public Works, Parks, and city planning departments should all be able to answer this question.)

The criteria for selecting a D/B contractor is simple. The managing agency, usually a city or county government, publishes a Request for Information from the skatepark vendors they are interested in working with. (This list is often supplied to the City by the skatepark advocates.) The vendors, if they’re interested in the project, respond with their information; it’s like their portfolio of work.

The City then reviews the information supplied from the vendors and determines which of the applicants are qualified to submit a proposal. The City invites the qualified companies to “make their pitch” for the skatepark project based on the available budget. When all of the proposals are received, the review committee (which should certainly contain at least one or two members of the skatepark advisory group) looks them over and scores them based on their relative merits. One vendor should emerge as the most qualified, and that company is then offered the project.

That’s basically how design-build works.

Strengths:

  • Faster and more cost-efficient
  • Reduced administrative load
  • Encourages innovation

Weaknesses:

  • Less control over design from community
  • Prohibited in many areas

Design-Bid-Build

It cannot be stated enough: skatepark design is best managed by professional, experienced skatepark designers. Every effort should be made to decrease the chance of a non-qualified builder being in charge of the skatepark construction.

The design-bid-build (D/B/B) process is the mandated process in most towns. This process requires the city to first hire a skatepark designer. The designer works with the local skaters and produces a set of blueprints and construction documents that are then delivered to the City. The City, usually with the help of the designer, develops some criteria for builder eligibility…certain qualifications that the builder must possess in order to be “qualified” to build the skatepark. The City then publicly invites construction companies to bid on the project. Companies that do not meet the qualification requirements are removed. Of those remaining (the qualified ones), the one with the lowest bid is awarded the job.

It is called design-bid-build because the park is designed, then the project is put out to bid, then it is built. (Design-build eliminates the construction bidding process and the designer goes on to build the skatepark themselves.)

Strengths:

  • Standardized practice
  • Awarded to the lowest bidder

Weaknesses:

  • Less ambitious skatepark
  • Risk of unqualified vendor involvement

An interesting aspect of DBB is the possibility that a company may submit a bid for the project that is significantly under cost in the interest of winning the bid for strategic business reasons. For example, a company struggling to build a park in a particular region may provide a dramatically low bid knowing that they will break even (or maybe even lose a little bit of money), simply to have built the park in the area…or to prevent another company from winning the bid. The skatepark industry can, on occasion, be competitive in this way.

Subcontracts (and Landscape Architects)

To add to the confusion, there is another process that can introduce a whole new set of challenges. Public parks are sometimes renovated as funds are made available. Perhaps a new bond or levy is passed and the Parks Department is flush with improvement dollars. The Parks Board decides that a good use of that money would be to refurbish a public park and add some new amenities that the public has expressed a desire for.

The City then hires a landscape architect (LA) to manage the changes using a “Request for Proposal” process. After the proposals are reviewed and the winning company is hired, the LA conducts a series of public design workshops.

The first of these meetings is generally a “fact finding” meeting to determine where the community’s interests are. This is the meeting where people come to promote their own interests, whether it’s jogging trails or tennis or off-leash dog areas. It’s VERY important that lots of skaters show up to this meeting, and any other public meetings that the LA holds regarding this project.

By the end of the first meeting, the LA will have a list of things that the public would like to see at the “new” park. This list will probably contain too many things to fit in the space, much less pay for. Tough decisions will have to be made.

The LA then creates several drawings of the “new” park. Each drawing will emphasize particular characteristics of what the community asked for. For example, one version might emphasize a “sports” park with a ball field, jogging path, and exercise stations. Another version might be more reflective and peaceful, and feature walking paths and lots of natural areas. Hopefully one or more of the versions contains a skatepark. The specific design of the skatepark won’t be indicated; it will just be an area of the park that says “skatepark.” That’s good enough for now.

In most cases, the skatepark will be the most talked about aspect of the design. This is where you can expect most of the outlandish ideas about skateboarders to come out. People will introduce ideas about liability, noise, and juvenile delinquency at these meetings. It’s the LA’s job to interpret the dialog into something useful.

Finally, the LA will hold a public meeting revealing the final design. If you’ve attended all of the meetings and been good advocates for the skatepark, the skating facility should be included.

At this point, a number of things may happen. The LA may be retained to manage and oversee construction of the new park, or the LA will create construction documents and hand off the entire package to the City that will then put the construction of the new project out to bid. The winning bidder, a general contractor (or GC), will be responsible for “sub-contracting” a skatepark designer and/or builder to provide the skateboarding facility. Unless the skatepark advocates are very involved with the process, this is a situation that can lead to a mediocre skatepark. The GC knows that the less they spend on the skatepark, the more they can spend on other parts of the park (or put in their pockets as profit), so the advocates must remain vigilant and continue to underscore their expectations via the City.

In terms of process, the important thing to remember here is that the GC has a lot of flexibility in whom they hire to create the skatepark. They are not as legally constrained as a city-managed project.

Strengths:

  • Reduced need for advocacy and grassroots fundraising
  • Reduced administrative load

Weaknesses:

  • Potential for reduced skateboarder input
  • Risk of unqualified vendor involvement