Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rolling Forward on Skateboarding

Whether you think that urban skateboarders are part of the newest national sports trend or that they are ruffians on wheels, you've probably not been able to ignore them. The topic was a hot one at the recent Project for Public Spaces workshop, and most participants seemed to agree that some sort of "official" skateboarding facility downtown is desirable to help direct current activity--which has on occasion led to dangerous antics and damage--into a more positive venue.

Peter Whitley, a skateboarding advocate who has been promoting development of one or more new parks for some time now, shared this articulate viewpoint with us recently:
  • We feel that the under-705 skatepark concept presents enormous possibilities and would fit well with other under-bridge skateparks we've seen along the west coast. Here are just a few of the advantages:

    Presents a legitimate place to recreate and socialize
    Offers year-round skateboarding even in poor weather
    Has great access to parking, public transportation, and stores

    Presents a centralized place to see skateboarders in action
    Displaces other illicit activity in the immediate area
    Provides constant, regular, positive activity
    Creates a sense of safety (through activity) for pedestrians on their way to the Dome or
    Attracts consumers to Dome area

    There are, of course, some liabilities and we should not be shy about addressing them:
    Poorly designed and/or implemented skateparks do not attract experienced (older)skaters which can lead to a "teen pit"
    Immediate area around skatepark can present opportunities for bad behavior if it isn't secured or is concealed
    Site amenities should include devices that encourage non-skating participation (benches, "safe" vantage points, etc.) for maximum community involvement

Tacoma City Councilmember Bill Evans has been meeting with Whitley and other members of and has begun building support within the City and with Metro Parks. Perhaps it's time for the larger downtown community to join the dialog.


  1. I think this would be a great idea. It would allow a place for local skate boarders to skate in an open environment. It would also show the support the community has for youth diversity. Along this line, I think the proposal should include a legal wall for urban artists to be able to paint on. Similar to the City of Redmond.

    I know that graffiti crime is up in the downtown district and this is one way to help curb vandalism throughout the city. IF there is no place for these artists to paint, the City of Tacoma will continue to be a blank canvas for the young artists.

    Jason Hulen

  2. The idea of a skatepark is right on. I have to disagree with the siting of the park under 705 though. It needs to be out where people can see it. Seriously folks, when was the last time you took a stroll underneath 705?!

  3. I totally agree with Jason. I think the Tacoma Art Museum and entire local art community should draw up plans for an urban art wall. Too bad all that new wall being put in along the tracks below 705 is inaccessible... How about instead of a wall, we give graffiti artists the pillars? 705 has a few huge pillars that are pretty much just holding the freeway up -- some color on those could be really nice plus it would spread it out around town a bit rather than focus it all in one place.

  4. A skate park in downtown Tacoma would be a great use of the space under the 705 bridge. The bridge would provide shelter from the elements. Burnside in Portland comes to mind. Having it downtown makes it an ideal place for skate competitions as well!

  5. It would be wise to reveiw the downtown skatepark in the city of Seattle, city center area. Based on my experience of visiting this area numerouls times it doesn't draw consumers to the area. I've also seen skateparks attract drug dealers (teenage dealers)to the parks to sell their drugs. This would need to be heavily policed (no funds for this) or have security there around the clock. I encourage everyone involved to take a close look at this and not build it in the name of diversity or because it looks good politically.

  6. Benjy - Drugs in our community are already prevalent. Your assertion that skateparks attract drug dealers is a little stretching. The Ruston Waterfront attracts drug dealers! The Tacoma Mall attracts drug dealers.

    There is much research going into this project. Please visit for more information on the group bringing this proposal up.

    If anyone would like a copy of the Department of Justice study on the City of Redmond and their skatepark with a concrete wall for artists, please let me know!


    Jason Hulen
    Fab5 | 2[feet]

  7. It would be wise to reveiw the downtown skatepark in the city of Seattle, city center area

    It could work if it were in a very high foot traffic area such as the front of Wright Park or even Ruston way.

    In any event, there needs to be a great amount of monitoring by others in the area to keep it functional and low crime.

    Fortunately, other cities have already had significant experience in setting up such parks and they have run the gambit from a disaster to parks that work.

    Tacoma can learn from these.

  8. This was a great idea that came up at the pps workshop!

    One of the discussions for the "safe viewing area" that we talked about at the workshop was at the [currently] empty lot next to the United Way. This spot used to be the end of the Prarie Line railroad ... the histroic entrypoint to Tacoma. Wouldn't a kids' park in a train theme be great there? Maybe a few shops. Maybe some seating. Maybe some game tables. Parents could bring their older kids to the skate park, and stay with younger kids at the kids' park ... everything is in viewing distance!

    I think that the key to "convincing" the masses about the value of skateparks is showing how multigenerational they can really be. Keeping families in Tacoma, as well as boosting youth, business, and arts is ALL important.

    Deanna Martinez Neidlinger
    Club Friday/World Vision

  9. Alright, you have a good blog going on, keep up the good work.

    Check out mine if you want at:

  10. Doesn't the fact that the underpass is considered "seedy" contribute to the argument for a skate park there? If there's anything to learn about development at "unattractive locations", its that building things worth caring about will garner support and preservation from the public. Again, Burnside (built by skaters under a deserted overpass, of all places) is a prime example.

    Right now, the 705 underpass serves as nothing more than a rendezvous point for drug-dealing and prostitution. The point is, we can either forfeit these sorts of areas to public squalor, or take them back by creating places worth protecting.

    This goes hand-in-hand with crime as well; what makes the underpass so dangerous is that it is virtually deserted, so lets un-desert it!

  11. Just build something, Stop your over analyzing thoughts. You make it sound like skaters are pussies. Graffiti (Art)is a part of the culture along with booze, drugs, and chaos in most communities. A prime example would be the Bremerton Plaza. Same group of skaters every time smoking weed, or drinking, but they are sick skaters. U.P. skate park has graffiti from all sorts of people. Somebody ripped the handrail out, the Pigs kicked out a group of skaters for smoking marijuana and skating without a helmet. So now they have a one year "Stay away from the park and go skate in the streets," file on them. Lawyers do drugs and sketchy things to. When the park is complete...Do you think you will ever see "investors" here? You are more likely to see more graffiti. Drive down Center St. and you will notice some graffiti that says "Skate or Die." So go figure. Invest in the Local Skate shops if you want to get somewhere.