By the end of the week, Charleston County will be one step closer to having a new outdoor skatepark. The county's Park and Recreation Commission settled on a construction and design team at a Monday night meeting and expects to have a contract finalized by Friday afternoon. The skatepark does not have a projected completion date yet.
The county picked Florida-based skatepark design company Team Pain to lay out the park. In skateboarding circles, Team Pain is a heavy hitter, with 30 years' experience in the industry and some major design feats under its belt including the creation of the world's first wooden skate loop — ridden by Tony Hawk himself in Encinitas, Calif., for an Airwalk shoe commercial. The company's latest creation, an under-construction skatepark in Arvada, Colo., is a sprawling concrete marvel that boasts improbable curves and massive, steep bowls. Skaters have been salivating over its preview pictures for months.
Shannon Smith, Charleston director of skatepark-advocacy group Pour It Now, is stoked about the decision. Team Pain will hold public-input sessions before it starts drafting blueprints, but Smith says some initial ideas include skateable art and a large open area "for moms and people who just want to hang out and watch." She says the high-profile designers could bring notoriety to the park and earn it a place on the circuits for lucrative skate competitions.
She is also excited about the builders, from Charleston's own High Power Construction Company, who bring to the table a working relationship with the S.C. Department of Transportation. The site that has been picked out for the park is in a tricky spot, beneath the ramps of Interstate 26 near the intersection of Meeting and Huger streets. Not only will the builders need to negotiate with DOT, but they will have to reckon with wetland conditions on the ground that could limit the size and affect the design of the park.
Tom O'Rourke, director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, gives an upper-limit cost estimate of $2 million for the project, but he says it could cost less if the limitations of the site lead to a less ambitious park design. Early critics of the park said they did not want their tax dollars going toward its construction, but O'Rourke says no tax dollars will be needed. The CCPRC, which also operates attractions including Whirlin' Waters, James Island County Park, and the Cooper River Marina, has about $12.5 million saved away in its Enterprise Fund. O'Rourke explains the savings this way: "It's like if you go to work, you make your money, and you don't buy a lot of food or beer, you put it in your savings account."
The price of admission to the skatepark will depend on how much money it makes through concessions sales and skate equipment rentals. Cash windfalls like a potential visit from the X Games could also lower the price, and season tickets will be available. "We're not trying to make money in this park," O'Rourke says. "But having said that, we're also trying to not lose money in this park."
O'Rourke says that now that contractors have been picked and money has been set aside, the hard part is over. The next step will be a meeting with the SCDOT, followed by some public-input sessions.
"We actually, seriously, honestly want to hear what the public has to say," he says.