The costs associated with the new skatepark is an easy topic for people to relate to. Most people are comfortable asking about the expense even when they know very little about skateboarding and skateparks.
How much do skateparks cost?
Specific skatepark costs are hard to estimate without a good understanding of the price of local labor and materials, the size and design of the facility, and the nature of the site where it will be built.
Skatepark advocates are expected to provide a cost estimate. Nobody expects this estimate to be a final budget, but people simply don’t have a sense of how much skateparks cost.
The average concrete skatepark cost in the United States — averaged over a decade (and not allowing for inflation) — is about $36.00 per square foot. We recommend that you begin your skatepark cost discussions at $40 per square foot. The skatepark may be more than this but odds are good that it will be slightly less. Of course, the more money you have, the more cool stuff you can do. It’s better to start with an estimate higher than what is likely so that you can either make it slightly larger than expected or include some elements or materials that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive.
There’s a good reason for advocates to present a high estimate. It’s much easier to return to the city with a reduction to the cost estimate because this is good news. Returning to the city to share that the skatepark will cost more than expected is certainly bad news.
Very few skateparks in the United States exceed $50 per square foot. When they do it’s usually due to a remote or challenging location. Distant locales can dramatically increase material costs. Soil conditions at the skatepark site can also have a big impact on the cost. Even state laws can have an impact on cost.
Why should the city pay for your hobby?
This question comes up occasionally from community members that see little value in public recreational facilities. To some, skateboarding seems like a fringe activity that will appeal to a small number of people. It’s a fair criticism but it can also be asked of any other public facility or service. For example, should a person that lives on the north side of town have the option of not paying taxes that go toward the maintenance of a fire station on the south side of town?
The best response to this criticism of the new skatepark is to point out that the new facility will encourage active lifestyles among local youth and send a clear message that physical health is a community priority.
How can the city pay for this when it’s broke?
The good news is that the skateboarding community isn’t asking for the city to pay for the skatepark. Instead, the skatepark advocates are simply hoping to form a partnership with the city and other community groups. Fundraising for the skatepark will be a coordinated effort that includes grassroots fundraising by local youth, community donations, and grants. Nobody is looking for a handout. Skateboarding youth want to do the work but they would like support from their community.
Will the skatepark drive economic development?
The short answer is no. The skatepark may attract visitors from outside the area who will certainly spend money at local businesses, but the skatepark should not be described as a “tourist attraction” unless you plan on creating a large facility capable of drawing large contests and events. Most skateparks are created to meet a local need and provide a safe place for young people to exercise, build friendships, and develop important life skills. As soon as the skatepark is viewed as a revenue-generating regional attraction, it can eclipse the essential purpose of the facility. The point of the skatepark is not to make money but rather to contribute to a healthier community.
There is another risk when depicting the skatepark as a revenue source. Neighbors to the facility may imagine hundreds of people visiting the park from all over, taking up all of the parking spaces, making noise, leaving trash everywhere, and being a pain in the ass. This is not the skatepark vision you want to express.
If you are working toward a large regional skatepark in an appropriate location and want to see that facility support big contests and events, then you should definitely focus on the economic impact. Unfortunately the exact impact that the regional skatepark will bring to your local economy is beyond the scope of this guide. Contact other regional skateparks in your state to find out what kind of economic benefits those attractions have had on their community.
Will the skateboarding industry help pay for the skatepark?
Skateboard companies are in the business of making, distributing, and marketing goods. It may seem like a good fit; the skatepark will encourage skateboarding and result in an increase of skate goods sales, but that impact won’t be enough to offset a substantial cash donation from that company. Beginning advocates often believe that the skateboarding industry will be generous in their support and some are… but you will need to have made some real fundraising progress before they will take your project seriously.
It’s worth noting that nearly all skateboarding companies are as generous with skatepark groups as they can afford to be. These companies are tapped all the time with ideas just like yours, and they give what they can. You’ll need much more than they can provide.
You may have a stronger case if the skateboarding company is local. Even then, you are more likely to receive product that can be auctioned or raffled off instead of cash.
You’re much better off focusing on non-endemic, (i.e., non-skateboarding companies), companies and corporations that are active in your area.
Do we need to become a nonprofit organization?
You will need to have formed a nonprofit organization or have created a partnership with an existing nonprofit if you expect to receive larger cash donations. Most skatepark groups establish a partnership with a local nonprofit organization to avoid the hassle of creating one from scratch.
Forming a new nonprofit, or 501(c)3, is not easy. It will require that your group register as a not-for-profit “company” with your Secretary of State and then apply for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS non-profit application process takes about a year but you are often provided a document that allows you to write receipts for donors so that they may deduct that charitable donation from their taxes. Forming an independent nonprofit organization will require that you comply with all laws governing the operations of nonprofit organizations, file your paperwork each year on time, conduct all of the required meetings, and maintain flawless financial records. If you form an independent nonprofit organization you will spend a lot of time simply maintaining your organization.
The best alternative is to form a partnership with a local nonprofit organization that has a mission that might apply to skatepark development. Churches, Rotary Club, community foundations, and “Friends of” groups often serve as a fiscal sponsor to skatepark organizations. Recruiting a fiscal sponsor for your skatepark project will allow you to spend less time doing paperwork and more time out talking with your neighbors.
What are some common funding sources for skateparks? Funds for skateparks can be organized into six broad categories. Each category is likely to contribute something to the skatepark effort. Your skatepark funding will be the result of a comprehensive fundraising strategy.
Most fundraising strategies start with in-kind donations and, once that program is underway, grows to include grassroots fundraising events. After the grassroots events are producing results, the group begins soliciting donations from local businesses and charitable organizations. Later, after these fundraising programs are all going strong, the group can begin applying for grants and seeking funding allocations from funds allocated to community and/or environmental improvement, among other things.
If you’re at the beginning of your skatepark development process, the main thing you should understand is that the best skatepark fundraising is a comprehensive strategy that operates on many levels and scales.
What kind of maintenance is required and how much will the skatepark cost each year?
When they are built correctly — namely, the skatepark is concrete — the maintenance each year should be limited to the cost of trash collection and occasional cleaning.
If the skatepark will be located on a property that already receives some regular maintenance from the local Parks Department, the cost of maintenance should be negligible. The Parks Department’s maintenance crews should be visiting the park anyway to see to various maintenance concerns. Adding a trash can or two to the schedule shouldn’t introduce a financial concern.
If the skatepark will be located on a property that currently receives no maintenance service, the cost should be limited to the price of sending out a maintenance crew to that site twice a week (or however often is appropriate) to empty trash and do a quick inspection.
Prefabricated skateparks, (those made of wood, polymer, and/or steel), require a significant amount of maintenance and are not recommended for municipal use.