The State Paper Covers Owens Field Construction: “…Opening Can’t Wait”

Owens Field Skate Park opening can’t wait

David Toole stood at the top of one of the concrete bowls at the new Owens Field Skate Park, bundled against a biting cold wind but feeling a certain warmth deep inside.

“I’ve been wanting a skate park in my town since I was 11,” said Toole, 36. “I remember the first time I was busted for skating (on private property) in Irmo, I told the cop there wasn’t anyplace we could skate legally.”

The officer recommended Toole work with public officials to get a skate facility built. Twenty-five years later, the area finally has a first-rate, public skate park. The 14,500-square-foot custom concrete park, which opens this weekend, replaces a small skate park many local skaters considered inadequate.
“It shouldn’t have taken so long,” Toole said, before adding the end result was worth the wait.

The pent-up desire for a skate facility showed in recent weeks. As the bowls and rails took shape, city parks officials had to run off skaters almost daily at the unfinished facility.

When a local TV station prematurely reported that the park was open last weekend, hundreds of kids showed up. They were allowed to skate Saturday and Sunday, but park rangers began shooing skaters again on Monday. There were still some safety concerns, and the city didn’t want the kids to damage the facility before the construction company signed off on the finished product, said Damon McDuffie, parks planner for the city.

But when the city allowed limited skating Wednesday afternoon for a photo session, McDuffie and Dianne Rushing, who managed the construction for AOS Specialty Contractors, saw the enthusiasm and came up with a compromise. The final safety concerns could be dealt with this week, workers could work around peak skating times on the finishing touches and the park could open as soon as rules signs were posted. That could be as early as this weekend but more likely will be next week, McDuffie said.
A grand opening event is still scheduled for March 6, but the three major bowls and the long alley filled with boxes and rails will be broken in by then.

Those who already have hit the concrete love it.

“When I first started working to get this thing built, I wondered ‘What will it look like?'” said Caleb Brown, 15, of Columbia. “I never imagined it would be this great.”

Caleb is too young to have lived the full, frustrating history of skate parks in the Midlands. Toole and others have been pleading with municipal officials in Richland and Lexington counties for decades to build skate parks. Frustrated that nobody would listen, several skaters in the 1990s built a makeshift facility they called “The Slab” on an abandoned railroad loading dock where the USC Greek housing is now. It was packed on weekends.

In 1999, Columbia put up some metal skate structures in a small section of Owens Field Park. But skaters had little input in the design. The skate surface was small and the structures weren’t what most skaters wanted. Still, kids showed up and loved the place.

Jack Winburn had just been bitten by the skateboard bug in 2007 when the old skate park was torn down to make room for a running track.

“When he saw them bulldozing it, I thought he was going to die,” said Mark Winburn, Jack’s father. “We’ve been driving by here ever since they tore the other one down, watching for the new one.”

In the meantime, Jack honed his skills on the skate park at Plex Indoor Sports in Northeast Richland and at skate events around the Southeast. The 7-year-old shows no fear now dropping into the 8-foot bowls at Owens Field.

“It’s great,” Jack said of the park.

“This is more than we hoped for,” said Ryan Cockrell, who many skaters credit with pushing to make sure the facility was built and was done well. “I’ve skated so many parks, but this one is up there among my favorites.”

Cockrell formed a nonprofit group, Pour It Now, that brought together skaters and gave them a clear voice at government meetings. “Ryan figured the ins and outs of the system for us,” Toole said.

Pour It Now proved skaters weren’t just a bunch of punks by lining up a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation and staging several well-attended events, including a Skate and Create art show at the Columbia Museum of Art. The group raised about $35,000 for the project.

Cockrell and Toole, owner of Blue Tile Skate Shop, worked with city planners and lined up famed skate park architect Wally Hollyday to design the facility. They used examples from other states to convince Columbia that a well-designed skate park would be a true amenity. They cited studies showing more kids ride skateboards than play baseball.

City Council finally bought into the idea, agreeing in 2008 to spend $500,000 in hospitality tax revenue on the skate park. To skaters, the planning process seemed to plod along. But once construction began, the project cruised. The construction finished ahead of schedule and slightly under budget, McDuffie said.

The skate park was supposed to open in April. Fast-track construction pushed the official opening date to March 6. Insatiable demand moved it up another two weeks.

“It’s going to be so crowded and so overused, it’s going to be painfully obvious we need more like this,” Toole said.

Cockrell said an area with the population of metropolitan Columbia needs about 64,000 square feet of skate parks. He sees Owens Field as the major park, with smaller ones built in other communities. A park already is in the planning stages in Blythewood.

Flush with the success at Owens Field, Cockrell has set his sights higher.

“Our goal is a skate park in every neighborhood,” he said.
Reach Holleman at (803) 771-8366.

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WIS Covers Owens Field Groundbreaking

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Patience is finally paying off for some local skateboarders.

It’s been a long wait, but construction is now underway for columbia’s new skateboard park at owens field.

The organizer that helped get the tony hawk grant to build the park says he hopes this will get more youth off the streets and on a skateboard.

“We’re breaking ground today to what will be the first custom concrete skate park in South Carolina and set the bar for skate parks to come, and set this sight a landmark nationwide,” said Ryan Cockrell of Pour It Now.

The 15,000-square foot skate park facility is scheduled to open by March 2010, less than 200 days away.

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Free Times Article: City, Pour It Now Skating Toward New Park

Construction of Facility at Owens Field Could Start This Summer


Ever since a skate park at Owens Field was demolished in 2007, local skateboarders have had to practice their craft on Columbia’s sidewalks and streets instead of one central — and legal — location.
But before the end of the year, skaters in the metro area might finally be able to return to their old skating grounds, which are slated to become home to the only custom-designed concrete skate park in South Carolina.

Local skater Ryan Cockrell formed the nonprofit group Pour It Now in an effort to save the old skate park after City Council decided to tear it down to make way for a track and field facility for Dreher High School.

But after the council’s decision, Cockrell thought local skaters might be better served with an improved park. “Our mission was to show how the city could harness the positive energy skateboarders have and use it to build something beneficial like [a new park],” Cockrell says.

City Council, in a partnership with Cockrell and other local skaters, agreed to support the idea. In June 2008, the council approved allocating $500,000 from the city’s hospitality tax revenue for construction of a new park.

Pour It Now has raised an estimated $35,000 for the project — $10,000 in donations and a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
Damon McDuffie, a city park planner, says he hopes construction will begin in the next few months. McDuffie says he plans to evaluate bids from construction companies and recommend one to City Council in July.

While some council members were hesitant about a new park at first, they eventually opened their arms to the skating community thanks in part to enthusiasm and support among local skaters.
“I thought Ryan made a good case to the council,” says Anne Sinclair, a former councilwoman who championed the issue. “He showed us there was a niche that needed to be filled, and the council thought we could do our part to fill that gap.”

A mother of skateboarders, Sinclair says she believes that there should be a wide range of recreational opportunities available to residents. “People might find skateboarding more interesting than team sports, so we owe it to them to provide numerous wellness, fitness and sporting opportunities,” she says.

Cockrell was surprised to see such a warm response from council members. He says he recently discovered that skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in the country and he believes that the new park will help Columbia’s estimated 5,000 skaters flourish.
“Columbia has really embraced the idea of skate parks,” he says. “I’m glad to see them encourage a positive activity instead of just putting it down.”

In its work to raise money and build support for a new park, Pour It Now has fielded a presence at the Rosewood Crawfish Festival and other local events and distributed donation jars at stores, including skate shops and Manifest Discs & Tapes.

One of the group’s newest fundraising efforts is Sk82O bottled water, which it has been selling at events and hopes to distribute in local grocery stores. Proceeds from sales of Sk82O go toward the new park. “This is something we came up with on our own and we’re really excited and enthusiastic about getting the product out there,” Cockrell says.

Skate and Create, an annual showcase of artwork created by skaters, is one of the events Pour It Now sponsors in an effort to shed a more positive light on the sport.
“We do Skate and Create to show how skating can be a creative outlet and open the eyes of people to another side of skateboarding,” says David Toole, event coordinator for Pour It Now and developer of the Skate and Create gallery.

Bluetile Skate Shop, a Harden Street store Toole owns, became an unofficial hub for skateboarders following demolition of the old park. Toole says the skaters who frequent his shop are tired of having to dodge police and are ready for a new park to be built. “These kids have had to skate in abandoned, unsafe warehouses in gang territory, so of course they want a safe place to go and ride,” he says.

Wally Hollyday, a nationally known skate park designer, sketched the blueprint for the new park. Hollyday came up with the initial design and asked local skaters to provide their input on how it could be improved.
“The desire is there, the kids are ready, and I’m sure they’ll be coming from all over,” Cockrell says.

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The State Covers Owens Field Tony Hawk Grant

This article really gives some great dates/deadlines for building the skatepark.

McDuffie said the grant will help the city build the park more quickly.

Officials will begin taking bids by the end of this month and hope to build the park for about $500,000.

Depending on how many bids the city receives, construction could begin by late March or early April. McDuffie said the park should be completed by July or August.


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Columbia Skate Park Will Soon Be a Reality

(Columbia) – By Sydney Cummins
Kids and adults from all over the Columbia area gathered at the Fifth Avenue Deli on Rosewood Drive today for National Go Skateboarding day.

But, it wasn’t just a chance to show off their skills, the area skaters also got an announcement that could make their dream into a reality.

Not every jump can pay off, as some of the skaters learned Saturday. “I spend a lot of time with it. You gotta get good at it… When I jump in the air, I just feel like I have control over something and it’s just really, really fun,” says skater Caleb Brown.


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Skatepark Clears Another Barrier


The design and location of the new Owens Field Skate Park approved last week balanced the needs of skaters with the wishes of neighbors upset at the loss of trees during other park projects.

The plan by Wally Hollyday Design features a linear skate park with bulges for bowls and ledges at either end. It would be tucked between the existing baseball field parking area and the forest.

If the skate park is laid out as designed, no trees would have to be cut down, according to city parks planner Damon McDuffie…

Full Story Here

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