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VOL. 126 | NO. 119 | Monday, June 20, 2011

Ramping Up

Tobey skatepark one step closer to realization

By Bill Dries

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After four years of false starts and different locations, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. broke ground on a rainy afternoon Thursday, June 16, for the city’s first public skatepark at Tobey Park.

Skatepark advocates joined Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. in prepping the land that will become the city’s first skatepark, located on Avery Avenue in Tobey Park.

(Photo: Houston Cofield)

“This way you know I won’t talk long,” Wharton said to a group of several dozen people, some of whom huddled under a nearby magnolia tree as he stepped out from under a tent into a then-light rain.

The skate park on Avery Avenue between Hollywood and Flicker streets should be open in late September, according to Logan Meeks of A2H, the local firm that designed the park working with California consultant Wormhoudt Inc., which has been designing such parks across the country since the mid-1970s.

Zellner Construction will build the 10,000-square-foot, $400,000 project.

“They wanted to put it right on Avery so that it would have the most access,” Meeks said, describing different parts of the course that make a transition from areas for beginners to those in the intermediate range to those ready for the advanced course.

The site is next to a dog park and near baseball fields, a rugby field and a beach-volleyball area.

It will have two bowls for skaters, some of which were on hand looking over the artist renderings closely for details.

“They look at it and they can see themselves in the park,” Meeks said. “It’s exciting to see them look at this and see themselves in the future.”

The future of the project has been uncertain for about four years. The funding for the park made it into the city’s capital improvements project budget in 2009 with an Orange Mound location.

But as design work was about to begin, city council member Wanda Halbert questioned whether there was a need for a skatepark in Orange Mound. She also questioned whether it had jumped ahead of other longstanding CIP projects. The opposition forced a change in location.

Skatepark backers including Aaron Shafer kept working, and Shafer joined Wharton and city Parks Services Director Cindy Buchanan in Thursday’s groundbreaking.

“Skateboarding is one of those sports that we all know that we do without having to be forced. ... This is just the beginning,” Shafer said, as he noted other members of the city’s skatepark community with longer standing on the issue. “I look forward to teaching a lot of kids how to skate. I was just the squeaky wheel that came in 2006.”

In the crowd were indications of past and ongoing campaigns for other skateparks. One attendee sported a T-shirt reading “Sk8 Mud,” fashioned after the logo of Mud Island River Park, a nod to the tentative talk of a skatepark on the southern tip of the island.

“I see you down on the (Main Street) mall on Saturdays and Sundays,” Wharton said to those with skateboards in hand. “We’re well on our way to becoming a healthier city. … Everybody in this town, if he or she wants to get out and go to a track at Melrose or wherever, they ought to have that.”

Buchanan noted 65 other American cities have skateparks and hinted Memphis will have others once the Tobey Park one is completed this fall.

“I suspect it won’t be the last one,” she said. “This will be a source of recreation for kids and adults. But it will also be a place where parents of kids can come. … They can be a

part of the event, not just send their kids in.”

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