Skateboarders Test-Ride Upgrades To Penn Valley Skate Park | KCUR

Skateboarders Test-Ride Upgrades To Penn Valley Skate Park

May 14, 2012

When Kansas City Parks and Recreation built Penn Valley's Skate Park in 2006, the $380,000 cost didn't cover everything on the plans.  

To many local skateboarders, the park was unfinished, and lacked what they call "flow."  The city got back to it this year with $300,000 more in upgrades, and the park officially re-opens this afternoon. And the investment is already beginning to pay off.

Testing The Park Before Opening Day

Many skateboarders didn't wait for the ribbon-cutting to test out the new features, even though the wide concrete plaza has been surrounded by orange fencing. One evening last week, five or six guys and a girl were riding the ramps, cruising the bowl and jumping off some of the new obstacles--at least the ones that weren't still encased in wood. 

A contractor re-tied some of the yellow caution tape, but skater Jon Hernandez said, you can’t expect skaters to see the concrete, and then wait for opening day.

"We went like ten or 15 years skating things we’re not supposed to skate, and this guy thinks he's going to put stuff at a skate park and then rope it off like we're not going to skate it," Hernandez said. "That’s stupid."

The contractors actually were prepared for this, city officials say they knew going in that skaters can't resist the temptation of a skate park-in-progress.

It's All About The Flow

This is only the second skate park ever built in Kansas City, Missouri (the other is in Pleasant Valley, in Kansas City North).  The Penn Valley Skate Park was built at a time when some residents were concerned that skateboarders were destroying other public places. But the half-completed park was a little frustrating to local skateboarders, says Nick Owens.

"It was very stop and go. You ran into a wall, you ran into a fence … once you got to the end of a so-called line it was done, that was it, you couldn't skate any more, which is infuriating to a lot of skaters," Owens said. "You want to keep going."

Nick Owens owns three skate shops in the area, and at 37, still likes to ride himself.  He said now that the park is completed, it finally has "flow."

"A well-designed skate park has flow in that you can hit different obstacles and keep going around in different directions and do different patterns and what-not and continually skate, hopefully without falling."

A "World-Class" Skate Park, At Least For The Midwest

Owens said that almost every local city and suburb now has a place to skate.  But he said this will be the region's first “world-class” park, along the lines of skate parks in California.

"Kids eyes are going to pop out of the their head when they see this," Owens said. "It is kind of a dream come true."

That’s partly because of these six expensive metal structures that look like geometric sculptures, painted bright blue and red. They’re actually obstacles that were used at a professional competition last year at the Sprint Center, and then donated by star skateboarder Rob Dyrdek's foundation.

According to the foundation's website, a great skate plaza needs more than ramps and bowls. It should replicate the urban street environment – stairs, metal rails, picnic tables, and benches – the challenges that skateboarders crave. 

Skate Park As Economic Development?

City officials might not realize it, but the investment in the skate park has already attracting at least one new resident.  30-year-old Nick Soper is moving from Liberty to a few blocks away from the park, just to skate it more.

"I’m pretty excited about coming out," Soper said.

Nick Owens estimates there’s about 10,000 skateboarders in the metro area.  But he said city officials shouldn’t delude themselves that skate parks will keep skaters off the streets.

"Maybe the some of the younger skaters but the older skaters, they will still skate parks, but everyone here right now will go skate in the streets," Owens said, "It's a deterrent but it's not gonna keep them away completely.  That will never happen."

Surveying the newly renovated park, Daymon Rodriquez has high hopes.

"Looks like a place that things are going to be grinded, boards are going to be flipped and landed on, and goals are going to be ... completed," Rodriquez said.

Today's ribbon-cutting at Penn Valley Skate Park is at 4pm. Star skateboarder Rob Dyrdek will be there. He's in town for the Street League DC Pro Tour at the Sprint Center Friday and Saturday.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.