Level of Service

We know that there are skateboarders in your community, we can begin talking about where they are skating. If there’s no skatepark in your town, the answer is probably “all over the place.”

There are about 3,500 skateparks in the United States but there are over 19,000 cities and towns. This means that there are at least 15,500 towns without a single skatepark. In other words, over 80% of all communities in the United States don’t have a purpose-built place for skateboarders to go.

There is a term that many parks and city officials use that you will find useful and interesting. Every recreational facility is built to meet a specific community need. The difference between a community’s needs and what it has is expressed as its “level of service.”

For example, a town with no skateparks has 0% level of service for skateboarding youth. A town that has its skateboarders’ needs fully met would have 100% level of service. If a community needs two skateparks but currently has only one, its level of service would be halfway met (or 50%) for skateboarders.

A badly designed or dilapidated skatepark might be considered “half” a skatepark. If you think that your community’s existing skatepark isn’t meeting its potential, you might think of it as “half a skatepark.”

Also, large skateparks with lots of features will serve more people than a small skate spot. This also might be considered “half a skatepark” while you consider how much skatepark service is being provided your community.

Every new skatepark helps raise the level of service. Small towns might only need a small skatepark but a large city will need lots of them if it wants to meet the local recreational need.

It is noteworthy that many communities have several skateparks. Once the first skatepark is built, the community sees the value that it brings and are more likely to build more. This means that a community’s first skatepark is generally the most difficult one to create because there is little understanding of what a skatepark is and how it normally functions.

It’s also worth noting that creating skateparks after the first one has its own set of challenges. One argument is that because the community already has a skatepark, additional parks are unnecessary. This is a why framing your skatepark project in terms of “level of service” is so important. The local skatepark need should be quantified.

We need to know how much skatepark, or how many skateparks, a community needs.

The short answer is that there should be one 10,000 square foot skatepark for every 25,000 residents.

The longer answer is that 10 skateboarders can share 1,500 square feet. If there are 10,000 skaters in an area, that would result in 15,000 square feet of skatepark. Things get complicated though. Not all skateboarders need a skatepark, and not all skateboarders will use the skatepark at the same time.

We recommend that you focus your needs assessment on core skaters. We calculate that 28% of all skaters in an area will be core skaters; skaters that will directly benefit from a skatepark.

Let’s say you have 1,000 skateboarders in your community. 28% of 1,000 is 280, so that means that 280 skaters will directly benefit from the skatepark.

28% of all skaters are core skaters.

If 10 skaters can share 1,500 square feet, 280 skaters would need 42,000 square feet. That’s a huge skatepark (or four medium-sized ones). There’s a problem if we end here. Not all core skaters that will use a skatepark will want to use it all at the same time.

We estimate that only about a third of all core skaters in an area will be wanting to use the skatepark at the most popular time of the week; Saturday afternoon. So we need to figure out how many skaters are likely to use the skatepark during “rush hour.” This is the maximum load the skatepark will be expected to meet.

Remember: The skatepark doesn’t need to accommodate all of the skaters in an area. It only needs to accommodate all of the skaters that want to use at the same time.

(Total skaters) X .28 = (core skaters)
(Core skaters) X .3 = (peak load)
(Peak load) X 150 = (total terrain need)

Let’s look at Denver again. There are 17,042 skaters, and 2,772 are core skaters. Of the core skaters, 1,432 are going to need a local skatepark at the same time. 1,432 skaters are going to need a total of 214,800 square feet of skateboarding terrain.

There is no skatepark on the planet that is this large. This total amount of terrain represents several facilities, usually broken up into 10,000 square foot “neighborhood skateparks.” Denver needs about 22 neighborhood skateparks to meet its local need. Given its total population of 600,000 residents, this seems reasonable.

Now we have two ways of determining a community’s total skatepark need:

  1. Quick Estimate (Total population) / 25,000 = (# of neighborhood skateparks)
  2. Thorough Estimate (Peak load) X 150= (total terrain need)

If we compare the two results using Denver as an example, we end up with approximately similar outcomes:

  1. Denver (Quick): 24 neighborhood skateparks
  2. Denver (Thorough): 22 neighborhood skateparks

The two methods come pretty close to being identical. For your purposes this should be close enough. The specific location and sizes of the skatepark will have an impact on how well they each help meet the local need. Those details are covered in the Location chapter.