Copyright © Skate Park Association
Guide For Public Skate Parks
Public skateparks are no different than public tennis courts, baseball diamonds, playing fields, dog parks, playgrounds etc. They should be funded by the city or town. If you are a very small town, short of funds and local groups raised funds for the tennis courts etc then you can justify asking for community support. If you have funded these facilities then you need to fund the skatepark.
What if you have no funds?You will need to hire a grant writer if you do not have one on staff. There are many grants, in all states, that will fund a skatepark especially now that skateboarding will be in the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo. Grants for obesity in youth, after-school activities, children who have a parent(s) incarcerated, healthy aging (we have skateboarders in their 60's now), rails to trails and organized youth sports are a few ideas. One thing you can count on, if your park is well designed and built you will get the most use per dollar of any facility that you have.
How much will it cost? You should be planning on a min of $250,000 to $2,000,000. $250,000 wont get you much more than a starter park. Often cities will set up some ramps on a tennis court for kids to start using while they designate a location and raise funds for a real park or even set up a mobile park for the skaters. Many cities will raise up to 2x the amount needed for the park and keep the rest in reserve for maintenance and cleaning. Lighting is expensive but well worth the cost.
How big does the park have to be? Spots can be as small as 5,000 sq feet and neighborhood parks 15,000 sq ft and a full park at least 20,000 sq ft. When the city of Calgary (Canada) was working on their park they sent a survey out to the residents (city of approx 1 million at the time) and received back responses that totaled over 30,000 users. They were shocked and it was approximately 3x the number of youth registered for Little League. They looked at how many baseball diamonds and playing fields they had and there were dozens. At this point the park became a bigger priority. They decided to place the park in a very large undeveloped open space in the downtown area between freeways and not considered "desirable". Many skaters were skating the downtown area at night so they decided to add lights and keep it open 24 hours a day. The park ended up being 91,500 sq ft with the first full pipe. They did landscaping around the park and developers came in and built expensive apartments and condos surrounding the park as well. Within a few years the city realized that the park was not big enough and they set up mobiles parks until they could build more neighborhood parks.
The City of Long Beach has 5 skateparks, Los Angeles 22 and Las Vegas over 20 (every neighborhood has to have athletic fields including a skatepark).
You can build a pretty nice park around 20,000 sq feet but if your city is large you may need more than 1 park.
Some cities will build street plazas or spots to supplement the bigger park.
For skate park information check out www.ConcreteDisciples.com Jeff Greenwood has a complete listing and rating of all parks worldwide with photos.
Should the park be staffed or unstaffed? Staffed parks carry a much greater liability risk for a city or town. An unstaffed park is like an unstaffed playing field, lake, river or beach. Residents will go there and play, at their own risk. If someone is injured the city is not liable unless there is gross negligence. A city must post signs warning of hazards whether its a swamp with crocodiles or a skatepark. If your park is staffed you have more liability just as you do with any city run, staffed program. Parents do not expect drownings in a city managed swim class; there is a higher degree of accountability. If you staff the park, you will have to pay your staff and some cities charge to use the park. This puts many kids back out on the street. You might say $2 is not much but these kids skate every day and that is $60 a month or double a gym membership and many parents have more than 1 child skating everyday.
What is my liability for an unstaffed park? There are things you need to do to manage your risk for an unstaffed park.
Clean the park: This includes removing trash, dirt and debris. If you have broken glass in your park and someone is injured you can be liable.
Maintain the park: You must maintain the park and this means your cleaning staff need to alert you if there are problems with the coping, drains, tiles, ramps etc. Ramp parks require more maintenance because there are more things that can go wrong. Ramps can gap, screws can pop up (nails should never be used), metal surface ramps rust and exceed all OSHA standards for hearing/ noise.
Gross negligence: You will be liable if they can prove gross negligence. The first thing they will look at is "who designed and built your park". The #1 thing you can do to protect yourself is work with a qualified designer/ builder or qualified Landscape Architect. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see if your contractor has complaints and you can check the rating on their parks at www.ConcreteDisciples.com The number of parks built is not as important as the quality of the parks. Gross negligence can also include a lack of signage, debris and disrepair. If your park is unstaffed you would be wise to work with a designer that will design for all users, not just skateboarders, even if your park will be skateboard only.
Cost to build a skatepark: Costs will vary quite a bit depending where you are located. A design build group can often save you money. The other option is working with a qualified landscape architect. You will pay for design and engineering and then the park can be built by local contractors if the architect thinks they are qualified. You should always get 3 quotes from qualified designers/ builders. One important thing to remember - all qualified designers, builders and landscape architects will work with your users to design a unique park.
If you hire unqualified people and then allow the local kids to design the park you can be held liable and it most likely would be considered gross negligence in a lawsuit. Costs for concrete can vary from $40 a square foot to +$60 sq ft.
We do not recommend using steel surface playground ramp companies. They are cheap to start but not in the long run.
Signage: The more complicated you make your verbage the easier it is for a lawyer to find a loophole so keep it simple. i.e.Skate at your own risk, this is an unstaffed park. Check for debris or damage before skating. Call this number XXX-XXX-XXXX to report damage and do not use the park until it is repaired. Beware of flying obstacles and collisions. No spectators allowed inside the park. Use appropriate safety equipment (this will depend on any regulations your city has passed). You are entering this park at your own risk. Skateboarding, BMX, Inline and Scooters are hazardous activities. No motorized vehicles allowed in the park.