Skateparks take a long time and few of them follow the same path. Not only is every skatepark unique, but so is every community that is pursing one. Every group pushing for a skatepark will face a unique set of circumstances and so no project is truly average in every way.
All public skateparks, however, have a few things in common. Here are the 6 characteristics that we believe are essential for long-term public skatepark success. These are the principles that will help you navigate challenging developmental decisions.
Characteristics of Successful Public Skateparks
- Free to Use
The skatepark has no fee, waiver, or residency requirements to visit and use.
The skatepark is permanent and created using durable materials.
- Easy to Walk To
The skatepark is near the geographic center of the community it is meant to serve.
- Made by Specialists
The skatepark is designed and built by experienced skatepark professionals.
The skatepark is directed and advanced by community action.
- Inclusive and Diverse
The skatepark encourages different kinds of users, particularly BMX and scooters, and programs, particularly learn-to-skate workshops and park clean-up days.
The material on this website is for public skatepark projects. It was written specifically for skatepark projects in the United States, but most of the information will be relevant to public skateparks everywhere.
The skatepark project starts as an idea and ends with a ribbon-cutting. There are lots of requirements to building a skatepark. Different organizations and individuals will be involved at various stages. The earliest stages involve people from the community coming together to collaborate on the skatepark concept. That stage ends when the team proposes the skatepark project to the city in a public setting.
The city will approve different aspects of the skatepark project at different times. It’s very rare for the city to entirely fund the skatepark project; nearly all skateparks are funded through a diverse collection of sources. The city needs to approve the “idea” of the skatepark, for example, and can do that by agreeing to the creation of a “skatepark steering committee.” The steering committee will usually have one or two skaters, an elected official or city liaison, and someone from parks staff. Steering committees usually meet once or twice a month.
Most skateparks are funded by a loose partnership representing the local government and the skateboarding community. Lots of institutions, groups, and individuals will become involved in various ways with the skatepark project. The fundraising strategy and execution is managed by the steering committee and others. Substantial fundraising does not start until a nonprofit organization is recruited to serve as the project’s fiscal sponsor. (A fiscal sponsor is required for most grant applications.)
Area businesses, the skateboarding industry, crowdfunding platforms, and Tony Hawk Foundation grants may provide help in the project funding stage. However, it’s a popular misconception that any one type of funding is going to pay for the skatepark entirely. There is no skatepark funding “Hail Mary.” Skatepark funding requires a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of hard work.
After enough funds have been raised, professional skatepark designers and builders compete with each other to offer the best value. In general, the lowest bid will earn the job. The designer and the builder are sometimes hired separately, and sometimes they’re hired together. This stage is managed by local government with the skateboarding community’s input. After the project “goes to bid,” the steering committee activities begin winding down.
The professional skatepark designer is hired to produce the final design. This is the community’s chance to have their say about what goes in the park and what doesn’t.
After the builder is hired, the skatepark gets built! When it’s done, the city accepts ownership of the new facility and opens it to the public. Grand opening!
This is the process that the nation’s 3,500 public skateparks have followed. It’s a process that can work for your community, too!
Common Skatepark Overview
- Some people team up on a skatepark project
- The core team seeks approval from the city (in a public meeting)
- The city forms a steering committee (with skaters)
- The steering committee does a lot of stuff*
- The project “goes to bid”
- Designer is hired and works with locals on the skatepark’s final design
- Builder is hired to create the final design
For more information on skatepark development, take a look at skatepark.org’s Table of Contents.