Our skatepark support for local activists.
We’re not only working with cities and municipalities, but also supporting skateboarders generating support for their own local skateparks. We know it’s a long and difficult journey – but we also know that long-term activism and engaging the right stakeholders in your community can go a long way towards making it happen. As a starting point, we have compiled the following Skatepark Support 10-Step-Plan to make your own local park a reality.
Unite for a cause!
Realistically, your municipality will not have a planned budget allocated anywhere on their books for skateparks. That’s why it always takes a citizens’ initiative to get the ball rolling. To put it simply: It’s never going to happen, unless you take the initiative! So, get organized as an official, registered initiative and formalize your goals and agenda. Always remember: You’re a group of like-minded, active young people looking for a permanent space to engage in your sport – and such a space is entirely missing where you live so far! That’s an easy situation for city officials to wrap their heads around, and it will lend credibility to your cause in public proceedings. Make sure to appoint a permanent person to represent you, for instance an official press speaker or public relations officer to handle communications and talk to the media.
Make your group official.
Create an officially registered association for your cause. By becoming a registered entity, you have the chance to apply for funds and support from muncipal governments and private sponsors. These funds can be dedicated to sports-related activities, or to furthering youth culture in your area – make sure to cover both aspects in your mission statement and basic skatepark concept.
Depending on which country you live in, the official departments and political organizations to address will vary. In the US, for instance, funds are available from the Department of Environmental and Community Resources in some cities, or the Parks and Recreation Department in others. Also in the US, some skate park projects are set up as funds to collect money from public and private sponsors, e.g. Franklin’s Paine Fund in Philadelphia.
Start by researching the local requirements in your area and also try reaching out to successful public skate park projects that will be happy to help with sample paper work and pointing the way towards the right public officials. In any case, you will need to choose a name for your association, so get creative while keeping in mind that this will be the official title for your cause featured in the press and public proceedings. And you will need to establish the articles of association for your skate park project as the official rules of conduct.
For a sample of skatepark projects and associations in the US, click here.
In the next step, elect a board of directors as the official management of your association and get clear on which other formalities apply to your club (this will also vary by region). Additional info and sample letters can often be found online, for instance this sample letter to city officials in Poland.
Becoming an officially registered association offers a wide variety of benefits, including a chance to apply for public funding for your project (see 7. SPONSORS & FUNDING). Depending on where you live and what type of association you register, you may also be eligible to receive donations and engage in official bids for grant money on a city, state, or federal level. Remember that all of these benefits are out of reach for non-registered, unorganized groups. So be glad you officially rallied behind your cause and got yourselves registered!
But also keep in mind: While your status as a registered association comes with great benefits, it also comes with some obligations. These include, and are far from limited to, proper accounting of your earnings and expenses, as well as documentation of all meetings and initiatives. Ultimately, you want to appoint a permanent person in your ranks to handle these official aspects such as accounting, bookkeeping, and so on.
Define your goals.
Think about the fundamental concept for your skate park and define criteria such as the skatepark type, size, style, and design of your park. In this stage, it’s key for you to clearly define the ultimate goals of your park: Do you want to host big contests in your park? And more importantly: What kind of users will frequent the park?
On that note, think about the targeted user group(s). Will your skatepark be open to other groups such as BMX, WCMX (Wheelchair Skating), inline skaters, and scooter kids? Or are you looking to create a 100% skateboard park? This is a crucial question and will affect all other stages of planning, all the way into the actual design of your park (see 8. PARK DESIGN). In any case, it’s key to ensure a barrier-free access for the park and create a minimum of features suitable for WCMX, even when no WCMX skaters are represented on the participation group for planning the park design.
Speaking of park design: When it comes to planning a street area, you need to decide whether you want a “street plaza”-style park or something more along the lines of a “flow park” with transitions and banked corners, speed wobbles and other features for keeping speed without the need to push.
Also decide whether you want a bowl or ramp area next to the street course and make sure the park design caters to riders of all skill levels. Because if beginners can find things to skate and build their skills on, it provides leverage for your association as a facilitator of promoting new talent – and there might be grant money for youth empowerment available.
A successful skate park concept also outlines – in a language that’s easy to follow for municipal representatives and city officials – why exactly a park is needed and what kinds of advantages will result for the youth in your area. In the bigger picture, the park concept also needs to define how the park will be built; meaning whether it will be a DIY-effort or a commissioned project built by a professional park construction company (see 9. SKATE PARK COMPANY). This kind of decision also hinges heavily on the desired shape and size of the park, as well as the amount of available pre-financing.
While looking for financial support (see 7. SPONSORS & FUNDING), also keep in mind that the commissioning of funds for public projects is always a political process. So the more different groups of users will benefit from using your park, the more political leigh weigh it receives for serving the “public good”. Make sure to feed your local politicians some convincing arguments for “selling” your park in official forums and try to see things from their perspective when you draft your concept.
Find the right place.
Go hunting for the right location for your park with the right amount of space and infrastructure to make it happen. Also keep in mind that building a new park and surrounding facilities from scratch is an entirely different workflow than updating or modernizing an old, existing facility. In the case of breaking new ground on a skate park, most cities pose stringent requirements to be met, including safety and noise certification, geological surveys, building permits and much more. You can reach out to the local Parks and Recreation Department (or local equivalent) and inquire about available spaces for use as sports and recreational facilities in your area.
Get in touch with local officials.
Once you have become a registered entity with clearly defined statutes and goals, it’s time to take the initiative. Get in touch with your municipality and present your concept with all the benefits your skate park will provide for the broad public. These benefits need to cover athletic as well as social aspects, ranging from “We’re getting kids off the streets,” “We help integrate youths across social strata and ethnic groups,” “We are getting kids into sports and off their couches,” and, “Skateboarding will feature in the 2020 Olympics – we are giving tomorrow’s athletes a space to build their skills.” Really try to get into the mindset of decision-makers and give them something to work with. For inspiration – and potential allies – also look around at current initiatives for similar causes in your city (synergies). Hosting a petition for signatures in support of your cause also lends credibility and impact to your project – the more people sign your petition, the better. Some projects have also benefited from running public demonstrations and picketing city hall with banners and pamphlets – make sure to invite the press for maximum impact (see 6. MEDIA).
Mobilize public support.
Take your cause to the local press. This will greatly expand your reach, including your reach to potential sponsors. The local paper’s news desk is your best point of contact for inviting members of the press to your events, presentations and other relevant initiatives regarding your skatepark project. Keep the news desk in the loop so they can dispatch reporters and photographers to any of your outings.
Plus, don’t just rely on print media alone and use the power of the Internet! This will be key in mobilizing young supporters for your cause and building buzz and momentum on social media. Cover all the digital communications basics for your project, including the park’s own website and social media channels. Also consider setting up a fundraising website for your skatepark project (see 7. SPONSORS & FUNDING) for people to share and donate.
Show us the money.
Depending on where you live, skate parks will either be supported mostly by public funds or through private donations. Regardless of what applies in your region, always keep in mind that mobilizing funds of any nature – either governmental or private – will always require some legwork on behalf of the recipient (meaning you!). This can include mobilizing a certain amount of seed financing that will later be matched by public benefactors or sponsors. In other words, you have to be able to “pay to play” the funding game.
Here are some strategies for mobilizing that initial investment to get the ball rolling:
Keep in mind that sponsors’ communication needs are drastically different than those of municipal organizations. Regardless if you are addressing brands from within the skateboarding scene, or lifestyle brands, or companies from your area (e.g. utility companies), it all starts with the same step: Everything depends on putting together a powerful and effective presentation to make a strong case for your project with plenty of visual documentation for support.
Also answer an important question: What can you offer sponsors in return for supporting your project? Perhaps exclusive banner ads and branded obstacles at the park? Or exclusive cooperation on events and contests? An effective presentation should always focus on the benefits from the sponsor’s point of view. In the realm of skatepark sponsoring, these are the three most common services offered by parks:
(1) Branded spaces (banners, logos on ramps, etc.)
(2) Exclusive usage rights to the park (priority access, especially for organizing events)
(3) Right to advertise the sponsorship involvement (e.g. “We are brand X, we are proud supporters of skatepark Y.”)
Pro tip: It helps if one of your association’s members happens to work in an advertising or PR agency and thereby has access to graphic design, photography, and editorial resources to make a professional impression. Also make sure to branch out across different industries and approach organizations on different levels. From your local skate shop to the distributor to the local bank.
Also keep in mind that support from private sponsors may be subject to certain rules if your project is funded by municipal or state support. Make sure to ask your city officials about the extent and ramifications of bringing sponsor funds/marketing assets onboard for your skate park project, as these will vary from region to region.
You can mobilize donations the old-fashioned way (e.g. events) and also via fundraising websites online. The latter offers a broad reach for letting supporters ‘do good’ at the simple click of a mouse button. There are a number of crowd-funding and fundraising websites to choose from. Once again, it’s all about making a great impression and it all sinks or swims with the right presentation for your project (also see 6. MEDIA).
Additional funds can also be collected by organizing fundraising events such as parties, concerts, and rallies (even merchandise) in support of your skate park. Whatever it takes, make sure to keep the ball rolling and stay at the center of attention by maintaining a regular frequency of events. That way, your project will not run risk of becoming “out of sight and out of mind” with city officials and decision-makers. Keep pointing out the fact that you are a group of skaters, BMXers, etc. lacking a legal space to engage in their favorite sport – and that money will help getting you off the streets.
c) Charitable Trusts
Charitable trusts may also present a welcome source of funds for your skate park. Depending on where you live, different rules apply in terms of eligibility and application for support from charitable trusts. As a rule of thumb, these trusts are not controlled by municipal officials and application and approval procedures will vary from country to country. Ask around in your town (see 5. CITY OFFICIALS) about available resources. And you can also ask successful skate park projects in your country and similar local projects in your area to see whether they have benefited from charitable trusts – and how they did it.
d) Public Funds
Since you are running a youth-oriented project, you are also eligible for a number of public funds – meaning money from taxpayers. These may be provided by different organizations and branches of your municipal government – including youth, sports, and parks departments – and will vary by country and region. Ask your local representatives or city hall for the number of funds currently available and which ones apply to your project. As already stated, skate parks may be funded by the Department of Parks & Recreation in some parts of the US, as well as other departments. Browse local webpages and look under ‘funding’.
Depending on the size and scale of your project, you may also be eligible for funding on a national or international level, including funds from the European Union, in some cases in Europe. Pay attention to the fact that most public funds are subject to strict application deadlines – usually at the end of the first quarter of the year in Europe – and that criteria as well as amounts of available funding will vary greatly.
In order to clearly point out the benefits of the skatepark for the greater common good, make sure to communicate the following three aspects:
(1) Broad User Group (Diversity)
The skatepark should be designed towards a broad range of urban sports practitioners (Skate, BMX, WCMX, etc.)
(2) For Every Age Group (Intergenerational Appeal)
The spaces are designed according to the theme “from young to old”. They should provide ‘safe’, openly viewable areas with directly connected dwell and rest areas alongside the skate area.
(3) From Novice to Professional (All Performance Levels)
The skatepark should be geared for different levels of proficiency. That way, it will appeal to beginners as well as casual and hardcore users all at once.
Regardless of where you are applying for public funding, the following crucial factors should feature heavily in the basic guidelines (see 3. CONCEPT) laid out for your skatepark:
The park will gain extra points for serving the greater public good, e.g. being accessible by schools and youth organizations.
The park needs to be operative for a duration of at least 20 years (depends on country and municipality).
When it comes to filing an application for public funds, the following basic requirements should be met:
Leverage all available sponsors and partners (see 7a) SPONSORS).
Collect and manage a seed budget to start the park, as public funding tends to cover only parts of the full costs (up to 87.5% in Germany; varies by region and country). In the case of renovation projects, one-third of the costs are generally covered.
Your association needs to be able to present their concept in a well-structured, visual format that ideally includes a sketch of the final park design (see 3. CONCEPT).
As mentioned above, always make sure to emphasize the benefits for the general public in your communications.
Prepare for presenting your project in a public format and get your story straight. Appoint an official public relations officer to handle communications and talk to the media (see 1. COMMUNITY).
Always remember: There is no legal claim towards getting public funds for your skate park. In almost all cases, the approval of public funding is part of a political process. Your application may drag on for a long duration of time and you will need to keep the ball rolling with initiative, perseverance, and communication skills.
Shape your skatepark!
Things are getting concrete! The design of your park is the number one factor to make sure it will remain a fun and relevant skate facility for years and years to come. First of all, your skate park design needs to reflect your fundamental goals, as stated during the planning stages (see 3. CONCEPT). Make sure that the design covers all elemental criteria (access to all skill levels, skill building, street VS. bowl design, etc.). Before finalizing your design sketches and it’s time to get sponsors and supporters on board, try to get the best park design possible on paper. It’s okay to get professional help: Reach out to skateboarders who have already contributed their ideas to successful skate park projects and also talk to professional park builders or architects specialized in skate park design. All of these efforts will help you avoid the typical mistakes made by folks who design a skate park for the very first time in their lives!
You may also hold a public design contest to solicit submissions and ideas from the public. After all, your park wants to serve the greater common good, so provide a way for people to voice their opinions. You may use surveys on social media to ask questions such as “What do you expect from the park?” “What would be your favorite obstacle?” and “Which features need to be added?” That way, your park becomes everyone’s cause – and the level of personal commitment and empathy increases. Make sure to evaluate the feedback and pass it on to the skate park designers.
BEWARE OF FALSE COMPROMISES!
One of the inherent problems of planning a skate park realized with public funds is trying to align far too many divergent interests into one project; often exceeding the available amount of space and budget. It’s all about getting your priorities straight and putting a design together that meets your pre-defined goals instead of trying to be everything to all people. And since many of these aspects tend to be a matter of opinion, you may also benefit from seeking professional help by hiring a design firm or company that has experience in aligning divergent interests into a final park design.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your park is fun to ride and able to draw in as many people as possible. Because for the municipal government – the ones who foot the majority of the bill – the main measure of your park’s success is the level of response and usage it can generate. And of course, how smoothly it operates (noise, trash, etc.).
Choose the right skatepark planning agency!
Generally speaking, the building contract for a skatepark needs to be awarded through a public tender to ensure transparency and a fair process. After all, we’re talking about taxpayers’ money here. The format and duration of this call for bids generally depends on the overall budget. But despite the bureaucratic nature of the process, there is generally a chance to name the professional skatepark company of your choice as a preference (you’re the experts as an official skateboard association). Have a look at some of the parks in your country or region and find out who built them. These kinds of reference projects are important indicators of the final quality of a built park and help make informed choices when it comes to commissioning an agency.
Please note: It’s important to define your fundamental quality requirements in the early planning stages. This will ensure that the cheapest pitch will not automatically win the commission, so put quality first and emphasise craftsmanship and experience.
Regardless of the budget and style of your park design, we highly recommend working with in-situ concrete; meaning concrete that is being poured on-site instead of pre-fab components assembled at the park. Generally speaking, in-situ concrete tends to offer better value and more flexibility in working with local conditions, and it’s regarded as the current state-of-the-art in skatepark construction.
It’s especially important to maintain a word in choosing the planning agency and skatepark company. . The last thing you want is for your “baby” to end up in the hands of the wrong park builders.
Hands-on till the concrete sets.
Now that you are nearing the finish line, it’s all about maintaining your momentum. The rule of thumb in these final planning stages is to “stay on the ball” and keep updated on all developments and decisions. Appoint a project director to serve as the mediator between city officials and the park designer; the kind of point person that will always answer the cell phone and show up on-site when questions arise.
Ultimately, a great number of questions tend to materialize once construction is underway – the kinds of questions that will require new decisions and an understanding for ‘skate details’. We all know how big of a difference it makes when the curbs are too low or the rails a few inches too high. Don’t be afraid to voice your demands – because once that concrete has settled, it’ll be too late to make any changes!
With that said, good luck organizing and building support for your local skatepark. We wish you perseverance and good luck in all your efforts – it is totally worth it!