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Re: “The Politics of Skate Parks

I will tend to disagree that "Skate boarding is for the most part a white sport...". This may have been the case 20 years ago when I started, but that has long since stopped being the case. Skateboarding has penetrated the urban landscape throughly and has been embraced by all communities. The only two professional skateboarders that have come out of Memphis so far have been black. I grew up skating and still skate with a diverse range of individuals from all races, cultures and economic backgrounds. We came to understand each other through the common ground of skateboarding and I think I came out a better person because of it. I would hate to deprive the children around Glenview of that same opportunity.

To move the park to another area like Rodney Baber would benefit some, yes. It would benefit skaters like me who have transportation to get to the skatepark. Unfortunately, It would not help those that we wished to help when the Glenview location was chosen. Those that don't have access to the transportation or the children who's parents can't afford the gas or the time to take them across town to skate will be the losers in this battle. If I'm willing to drive to Oxford, MS to skate a quality park, I surely wouldn't mind the extra few miles for the Glenview location.

I will take any skatepark we can get. There are benefits to them that stretch far beyond just having a place for us to skate. There are city wide benefits like an improvement in the quality of life for the city. There are also community level benefits in other areas like decreased youth crime that will be lessened in a complex like park like R. Baber. I just feel bad for the people of Glenview that don't get the opportunity to reap those benefits.

Posted by Gurley on 01/21/2010 at 12:15 PM

Re: “Island Dreams

The location of Mud Island is perfect for a skatepark. We are trying to put the "Park" back into "River Park". By mixing in various active outdoor activities like the greenbelt park extension, boating and fishing on the river, splash park, playgrounds, maybe a rock climbing wall and then anchoring that with the draw of world class skatepark, you then create an active park experience for the whole family rather than a passive, go-and-look-at-it kind of thing going on now. Active experiences encourage repeated visits to the island and build up attendance numbers. Give the Zippin Pippin to Graceland and save the rest of the "gimmicky" stuff for later if there is an interest.

Posted by Gurley on 10/01/2009 at 1:14 PM

Re: “Island Dreams

Personal experience. Every major skatepark that I have gone to has been packed with people. Not only locals, but a large amount of the skaters were from out of town like myself. They had come just because of the skatepark. People come from all over the nation just to skate a really good park. Many were there on repeat visits. I have even been to skateparks and met people that have come in from other countries like England, Brazil and Germany. That speaks to the draw of world class skateparks.

Jack, I gave you the evidence. Quality of life, plain and simple. Right now, we as a city, do not seem to offer a lot of family friendly, active attractions to those who are considering making Memphis their home or host. We hit them over the head with our Music, food and nightlife (as well we should, we have that part down). We tout our central location, easy access and low cost of living but other cities offer more. They offer a higher quality of life showcased by Bike trails, Greenways and ,yes, Skateparks. Look at cities like Colorado Springs, CO. or Portland, OR. that have consistently high quality of life rankings and you will see that they are rich with active outdoor options for everyone. They also have some of the highest number of skateparks over any other city in America.

Like I said, a skatepark alone won't do the work all by itself, but it is an important and very visible signpost that we are working to improve the lives of our citizens and our visitors. That part of the skateparks impact is ver valuable and can't be overlooked.

Posted by Gurley on 10/01/2009 at 12:40 PM

Re: “Island Dreams

Skateparks are big ticket, world class attractions that cost very little to build and almost nothing to maintain. It has an attraction that far surpasses a Ferris Wheel or carousel. Want proof? How many families drive form here to Louisville to ride a Ferris Wheel? How many families drive from here to there for the world class skatepark in downtown Louisville? Tons. If you don't believe me, just make the drive yourself. You cannot discount a world class skatepark as fringe attraction. They have a huge draw and attract people from far away. Even small quality (that is an important distinction) parks have a large impact. Talk to any of the thousands of skateboarders here in Memphis (they don't bite) and they have probably made the hour+ drive down to Oxford many times just to skate their small but well built skatepark. More travel to Nashville where the park is a little larger. If you build a world class skatepark on Mud Island, I can guarantee you that it will draw people from all over the country.

Many skaters like myself are older now and have families that we bring along on these trips. Or conversely a family will often travel to someplace that their skating children would like to go. As a family trip they will do many other things besides just skate. The skatepark brings them here where they can see all the other wonderful things that Memphis has to offer. We need more than barbeque and Graceland to attract folks here (not that there's anything wrong those. I love them both.)

You also need to consider the skatepark, along with other recreational activities like jogging and biking trails, make a huge impact in the quality of life here in Memphis. That is the sticking point that has kept young professionals and new businesses away. We have a low cost of living, a vast array of quality entertainment and a centralized location that would make us very attractive to young talent they would either move here or stay here if it were not for the quality of life. A skatepark is not going to magically transform the city into the most attractive place to live in America, but it will speak out loud that the city is trying to improve the lives of it's citizens. That alone is worth the price of construction.

As for location, I'll say this again, Mud Island needs the skatepark far more than the skatepark needs Mud Island. We are not advocating the skatepark solely for the sake of the skaters of Memphis (though it is very much needed), a skatepark is your lowest cost/highest impact feature to insure a huge draw and many repeat visits. It is a unique, under used location that would provide an experience unlike anything you could find around the globe. We can ill afford not to put a skatepark on the island.

None of us are advocating a skatepark to the exclusion of other attractions. There is plenty of room on the island for shops, restaurants, rock climbing walls, the greenbelt park extension (a fave of mine), splash park, playgrounds ect. However, these attractions do not have the draw that a world class skatepark has. Think of the skatepark as the keystone that would hold the River Park together. A skatepark will bring people in again and again. It will drive up attendance numbers. That increased traffic would help make the park more attractive for corporate sponsors to invest in larger and more expensive attractions to continue build on the success of Mud Island and the City of Memphis.

Would the skaters, in-liners and BMXers of Memphis survive without the skatepark on Mud Island? Of course they would. Would Mud Island survive without the skatepark? I'm not so sure.

Posted by Gurley on 10/01/2009 at 11:29 AM


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