The skatepark service area is the range of geographical area that the skatepark will support. Relative to skateparks, “service” indicates how many people the skatepark can reasonably support.
A skatepark has a particular size, and a larger skatepark can accommodate more people skating at once. A smaller skatepark will reach its maximum capacity with fewer people. Therefore, larger communities need larger skateparks than small communities. At a certain size, however, it becomes unrealistic for a single massive skatepark to serve the entire town. A single skatepark to serve all of Los Angeles, for example, would need to be 1,543,200 square feet, or about 35 acres. (The largest skateparks in the United States are only around 60,000 square feet, or 1.3 acres.) Clearly that’s unrealistic. First, it would be very difficult to find 35 acres of land in Los Angeles to put a skatepark in. Second, it still would only serve people that could reach it. Instead, we break that total size up into smaller, ordinary-size parks and distribute them around the community.
How many parcels that large park gets broken up into depends on the geographical size of your community. The most significant influences on a skatepark vision will be the size of the community it is meant to serve. The second factor is how large the space is that the community lives in.
Of the two characteristics, population plays a greater role in informing your skatepark vision. Density, by comparison, is only a consideration that you will use to fine-tune things after you get going.
Larger physical areas don’t necessarily have more people in them. Anchorage, for example, is very large (it’s the largest city in the United States in terms of area), yet it is the 65th most populated city and has the fewest people per square mile of all major American cities. This relationship is referred to as “population density.” Anchorage has about 170 people per square mile.
New York, by contrast, has the highest population density in America. In New York there are about 27,000 people per square mile.
The average population density for American cities with more than 100,000 residents is about 3,100 people per square mile. Anything more than that would be considered more densely populated than average.
This relates to skatepark development in a peculiar way. Imagine two communities with 25,000 residents each. They each need about 10,000 square feet of skateboarding space. However, skatepark location can be influenced by the population density of each community.
Consider this: Both of our hypothetical cities are identical in every way except for their physical size, and we know they both will need about 10,000 square feet total of skatepark. City #1 is 5 square miles, while City #2 is 12-1/2 square miles. In other words, City #1 has 5,000 people per square mile. City #2 has 2,000 people per square mile. We can clearly see that City #1 has more people packed into a smaller area than City #2.
In the smaller City #1, a skatepark near the center of town should be accessible to everyone, because everyone lives relatively close to each other. Because everyone lives near downtown, that’s where the skatepark should go.
By contrast, the community in City #2 is spread out. A single 10,000 square foot skatepark downtown may be difficult for those people living at the edge of town to get to on a regular basis. The skaters out at the edge of town will probably continue to skate in the streets except on those days when they can manage to get to the skatepark. This city would probably benefit from two “half-size” skateparks on either end of town to provide maximum access to everyone.
This is one way that the geographic size of the service area can impact what kind of skatepark solution is best.
NOTE: If your service area is a town or a city, and has more than 5,000 residents, population density can be found on the US Census website. Go to quickfacts.census.gov and click on the appropriate state. At the top of the next page, find your town or city, then hit the Go button. You’ll see a long list of statistics about your town. (You’ll use this particular page a lot!) At the bottom of that list you’ll find the line for “people per square mile.” This figure is your town’s population density.
Population density can also have an impact on the availability of land. Densely populated areas put a higher premium on undeveloped land. This consideration is beyond the scope of most skatepark development concerns but it helps to have a general understanding of how population density can impact skatepark development opportunities and challenges.
You may hear the term “built-out” in reference to development and skatepark location propositions. It will usually come as a reason not to pursue a skatepark in a particular location. This means that the community, or the area where the skatepark is being proposed, has no available, developable land. It’s “built-out.” (For example, “That park is built out and it would be impractical to pursue a skatepark there.”)
Just remember: A skatepark for every neighborhood. This rule of thumb should work well with communities of any size and density. This is the quickest and easiest way of focusing your skatepark vision into specific projects.