There are many different types of skateparks. There are indoor skateparks and outdoor skateparks. There are private, retail, and public (free) skateparks. Some skateparks are made of wood or steel, others are made of concrete. Some are large, some are small.
We’ll look at different ways that skateparks are classified and some of the pros and cons of different types.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Skateparks relate to the local economy in several ways. They cost money to make, maintain, and remove when their life is through. The total cost of all three of these expenses is known as the “total cost of ownership” (or TCO). When you talk about the economic aspects of the skatepark, it’s important to understand the idea behind a facility’s TCO.
For example, imagine if you got to choose between two skateparks. The first skatepark is cheaper to buy but more costly to maintain. The second skatepark is more expensive to build but less costly to maintain. The TCO of these two parks can be compared if you know how long the parks will last, how much they cost to build, and how much they cost to maintain per year.
If we take this example a step further:
Park Option A (concrete):
$400,000 to build
$40,000 to maintain ($2,000 a year over a 20-year life span)
$10,000 to demolish
Cost per year: $22,500
Park Option B (steel ramps):
$200,000 to build
$48,000 ($6,000 a year over an 8-year life span)
$5,000 to demolish
Cost per year: $31,625
Although Park Option A appears to be more expensive, when you add up the cost of maintenance it reveals that Park Option B is actually more expensive. Plus, it won’t even last half as long.
Good skatepark advocates understand how skatepark costs work even if they don’t have the specific numbers for their ideal skatepark that they’re working to see built.
Free or Pay?
There are three types of skatepark business models. There are public skateparks, commercial skateparks, and private skateparks.
Public skateparks are owned by a government agency and are usually managed by governmental employees, though they will often use volunteers and community groups for special tasks. Most skateparks in the United States are public.
Public skateparks are almost always free. When they charge money, it’s usually in the form of a municipal fee.
When public skateparks are being planned, the design, construction and policy will require some degree of public input. This website is focused on advocating for and creating public skateparks. Public skateparks are almost always outdoors. Public skateparks are paid for in a variety of ways and may include funds from grants, grassroots fundraising, and capital improvement funds (i.e., Parks funds).
Commercial skateparks are owned and operated as retail businesses or charitable organizations. Most commercial (or retail) skateparks have a shop attached to the park and charge money to use the facility. These fees are collected in the form of a membership or on a “per session” basis.
The skatepark’s design is determined by the owners of the skatepark, as well as whatever policies they choose to implement, (e.g., helmet use, BMX, etc.).
Retail skateparks are developed as businesses and follow entirely different development plans than public skateparks. These lessons deal primarily with the development of public skateparks.
Private skateparks are owned by an individual and are built on private property. The most common private “skatepark” is a backyard miniramp or some wooden ramps that are hauled out into the driveway. These types of structures do not address the public need for skateparks.
Of the three business models, public skateparks are the most common, the most economical, and the most equitable for a community that needs more places for young people to recreate.
True Cost of Supervision
Hybrid business models are sometimes created to capitalize on the best parts of each type. For example, some public skateparks that are owned and operated by the city will hire a private company to manage it. The company will ensure that the rules are followed, sweep out the facility regularly, do cosmetic maintenance, and charge visitors a small fee to use the park. This is the same model that is used at many municipal golf courses. In practice, however, skaters that cannot or choose not to pay to use the park will return to the streets where there is ample terrain. If the on-site supervisor is a paid employee, the cost of skatepark supervision exceeds the revenue generated by an entrance fee while simultaneously reducing public interest in the facility. Therefore, supervision is not recommended.