On May 22, Philly should expect a skate park even the professionals would fawn over.
Once completed, the $4.5 million to $5 million Franklin’s Paine Park at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Schuylkill Banks, will be the largest and most expensive skate plaza in the country, said Claire Laver, executive director of Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund.
“This has been a project that’s over a decade in the making,” she said .I’ve personally been involved for over four years.”
Former Philadelphia mayor John Street banned skateboarding in Love Park in 2002. With only four other skateparks in the city, it’s difficult for skateboarders to find a place to practice their hobby. Paine’s Park hopes to become that solution.
Laver said there’s an estimated 60,000 skateboarders in the city, which leaves their accessibility to skateboard in a public and welcoming place 15,000:1; whereas other major cities in the nation have a much smaller ratio, around 500:1.
“We feel like it’ll put Philly back on the map in terms of skateboarding,” Laver said.
At just less than 10,000 square feet, Paine’s Park will fit right by the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art and Schuylkill River, with its design team matching its architecture to ensure the project isn’t an eyesore and to keep the high urban aesthetics.
Laver said it will have a blend of concrete and grassy areas, so lots of people can enjoy free and public access to the park.
Laver stressed that the park is not solely for skateboarders. With its location and large space, she said it will be a place for everyone.
“It exhibits the way skateboarding has the potential to bring people together,” Laver said.
Since breaking ground on October 2012, the park is well on its way to being completed, but it needed one extra push from the community to fill in the funding gaps.
As The Temple News reported last April, the building of the park was delayed due to a lack of funding and employees. With a Kickstarter page launched on March 14 and ending April 3, the team asked the public to pledge $10,000 to assist in the final construction budget. Any money pledged beyond that goes toward the first year’s maintenance of the park.
Luckily, with days before the final funding date, Paine’s Park successfully raised $10,000 with a surplus of $1,551.
Junior business entrepreneur major Matt Smith, who is also the president and founder of the Temple University Longboarder’s Club, said he is more than excited for the park to open. Though he said the club won’t necessarily use the park since longboarding is better suited for hills and curves and as a mode of transportation, Smith said it’ll bring all skateboarders out regardless.
“For the city to put aside a very awesome piece of land and dedicate [it] to skateboarding shows the progression of skating in the city,” he said.
He said another reason for his excitement is just the fact that there will be another legal place to skate in the city, considering even he has been banned from skating in certain areas.
“I can’t wait to go riding. I also think it’s a very prime location for it,” Smith said.
Kevin McDonald, who works at Nocturnal Skateshop and owns local skateboarding company Skateswords, said he and his friends have been anticipating the opening of the park for 10 years. He said it’ll do good for the “skate scene” by giving local skaters a place to practice their art and congregate.
“Paine’s Park is going to give a rebirth to the whole skateboarding scene and culture,” he said.
McDonald said the skateboarding scene isn’t just about skating, but also other creative outlets that go along with it like videography, art and photography.
The people who pledged for Paine’s Park on its Kickstarter did not walk away empty-handed. Depending on how much money was contributed, incentives such as stickers, patches, skate decks and T-shirts – designed by artists Todd Marrone, Yis “NoseGo” Goodwin and Todd Landaker – were given.
There will also be contemporary pieces of art designed by the artists themselves hanging up around the construction site.
The team at Paine’s Park also partnered up with a variety of companies to help build and fund the project including SkateNerd, Gridline Skateparks and the Tony Hawk Foundation.
The park has also had help politically, with contributions from former State Representative Babette Josephs, State Senator Larry Farnese and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department.
Laver said she hopes the park will provide the space the skateboarders of Philadelphia are looking for.
Levar said there has been a fair share of ups and downs in the project.
“With a big construction project, many things could arise and derail you, but we have a really tremendous project team,” she said.
However, one of the biggest ups was the support from the community, she said.
“It means a lot, personally, to see everybody who’s backed the project step up,” Laver said.
Currently, the team is in its final stages of construction.
“I’m very eager to open the park, and I’m excited to see it in action this summer,” Laver said.
The ribbon cutting date is scheduled for May 22 from 4-6 p.m.
Patricia Madej can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.