One park isn’t enough, skateboarders say

It’s out with the old and in with the new as a multi-million dollar rebuild of Centennial Park gets underway, but local skateboarders say the overhaul is grinding out a popular spot for the growing sport.

Construction will start on the east side of the park this year, where an all-inclusive playground and picnic area will be built on the city’s original skatepark. The playground will be accessible for all children and adults, regardless of their ability, and includes a ramp and hard surface for those with mobility issues, as well as modern playground equipment like a cube tower and roller table.

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“It will be something unique in the city, and has been designed very thoughtfully,” said Jennifer Decker, the city’s new economic development manager.

With the change, Decker said there are no current plans to replace the skatepark, leaving the city with just the Rotary Skatepark, built in 2013.

Members of the city’s skateboard community say that will lead to the skatepark becoming more overcrowded than it already is, and will deter people from taking part in the sport.

“Skateboarding, as well as the BMX and scooter scenes, are as popular as they’ve ever been, and there’s no end in sight,” said Cole Andrews, owner of Victory Skateboards.

“Having only one skatepark is a step in the wrong direction.”

Life-long skateboard Chris Vasik agreed.

“It’s going to be hard to keep everyone happy because of the limited space and how many new kids are coming into it,” Vasik said.

“It’s getting really popular, which is a good thing. But at the same time, a lot of the guys that have been going for a long time are getting frustrated with how busy and dangerous it is. If there was another place to do these tricks around town, we would do them elsewhere, but we don’t have that option.”

Part of their frustration stems from them feeling like their voices weren’t heard when the city held public consultations last fall to see what residents wanted to see in Centennial Park, and for them to raise concerns.

Andrews said many of those who attended each meeting were skateboarders, but there was no communication from the city following the meetings, or any follow up on the ideas that were proposed.

“We were told at the consultation that the city would put together a plan to have a street spot for us to skate, a friendly place where skateboarders could skate on roads without dealing with traffic. It seemed like we were being listened to at the consultation and that plans would be put into place, but we never heard any further talk about it. We were pretty surprised that nothing actually happened,” Vasik said.

Andrews is holding on to four slabs of granite donated to him in May by the skateboard company RDS, valued at $500 in total, under the condition it be installed where the public could skate it. RDS sent granite to communities all over Canada, something Andrews and Vasik were very excited about.

Andrews initially contacted city officials to see if they’d be interested in installing the granite in the old skate park, but was told no as the city planned on demolishing the park.

Decker said that when the Rotary Skatepark was built, it made the old park at Centennial Park expendable and that it was going to be removed eventually. As well, it hasn’t been maintained, and it was identified in the redesign that replacing the skatepark would take priority.

“We hope when people enjoy the new space they’ll see the value in it. People can bring their bikes to the park and there will be lots of space,” Decker said.

The city has hired Northern Legendary Construction to carry out the redevelopment of Centennial Park, at a cost of $5.5 million.

The park will include a new permanent stage and festival plaza, a pedestrian laneway, garden, and public washrooms. It also includes the recently refurbished spray park, which opened in June.

Construction of the new playground and picnic area is scheduled to be complete at the end of next summer. Construction of the west side of the park will start in in 2019 and be complete by summer 2020.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca.
 

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