Looking for a place to call their own

Denise Wright

Local skateboarders are still waiting for the skate park promised by the city years ago

Ryan Lawson, 19, of Cuyahoga Falls skateboards in downtown Akron. Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Spring brings flowers, green grass and good weather, and with good weather comes skateboarders.

On any given sunny day, they can be seen making their way to class or out riding with a group of friends. But with the closest skate park being about 15 minutes away, are student skateboarders being confined to campus?

Take a look at what a future skate park could do for everyone involved.

For Kent and surrounding areas

In a Sept. 24, 2006 entry titled “Skateboard Park in Kent’s Not Too Distant Future” on his blog, Kent360.com, City Manager Dave Ruller expressed his excitement about a skate park that Kent Parks and Recreation had in the works.

A skate park was expected to open in Spring 2007.

One year later, Kent is still without one.

A March 26, 2007 blog entry, Ruller’s last about the skate park, said Kent Parks and Recreation was still fundraising for the project and hoped to start construction soon.

Attempts to reach Ruller and John Idone, director of Kent Parks and Recreation, to confirm the current status of the project were unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, in a Sept. 25, 2006 entry titled “Skateboarding Economics 101,” Ruller posted a list of economic impacts of the skateboarding scene in Philadelphia.

He listed increased enrollment in local postsecondary schools, the development of “new businesses catering to a growing population of artists and skateboarders” and the ability to draw in bigger businesses.

Could a skate park in Kent yield the same results?

Vince Randazzo, supervisor of Downview Sports Center in Cuyahoga Falls, said he didn’t see an economic impact after the center’s addition of a skate park in 2001. He said since their skate park is free, skateboarders usually only contribute to concession sales.

However, Randazzo said he could see it benefiting the local economy, especially in a college town like Kent.

“For us, it (building a park) wasn’t so much about the economy,” he said. “We were getting a response from the kids in the area.

“I’d rather see the kids here in a more controlled area and not have to worry about cars zipping by where they could possibly get hurt. I’d rather see them here having fun.”

Ruller said he thinks it’s time for Kent skateboarders to have a recreational place of their own.

“We’ve had baseball diamonds for years,” Ruller said. “It’s time to give the skateboarders their turn at the plate.”

For campus

Problems with skateboarding and vandalism on campus are an ongoing trend. Robert Misbrener, associate director of maintenance for Campus Environment and Operations, said he has dealt with these issues since starting the position in 2005, and he is sure it was a problem even before then.

Misbrener said during the 2007-08 school year there were two students who went to conduct court and paid restitution for damage done by skateboarding on campus property. One individual was skateboarding on the May 4 memorial. The other individual damaged a handrail outside of Cartwright Hall.

According to Chapter 4 (4-02.1) of the University Policy Register, destruction or defacing of university property is prohibited. Furthermore, the use of skateboards, or any variation thereof, is banned “on university property and in university facilities.”

“So basically, sidewalks are it,” Misbrener said.

Above all, Misbrener said common sense should prevail when deciding where to skate.

For example, grinding on surfaces will obviously wear down the protective covering. Misbrener said this could lead to rust, and a rusty railing could lead to people cutting their hands.

Misbrener pointed out that the university is taking preventative measures. He said when a railing in the commons area by the tennis courts was redone in the late ’90s, a projection was added to the railing to discourage skateboarders from using it.

He also said the metal knobs on the seating areas by Bowman Hall and the Business Administration Building were recently put in place to prevent skateboarding on the ledges.

“Of course it’s prohibitive to go back and replace all the ones that we have done,” he said. “But with all the new ones, we’re trying to incorporate that design.”

Misbrener said a skate park being developed in Kent could change skateboarding on campus and possibly cut down on vandalism problems.

“Several times when we do have a student in conduct court, they do mention the fact that there’s nothing nearby,” he said. “If you build it (a skate park), they will come.”

For students

Freshman exploratory major Ralph Hoyt said one of the defining things of his summer vacation is skateboarding.

Sophomore marketing major Andrew Oliver agreed.

“I’m busy with school at this time, but I guarantee during summer I’ll be skating like crazy,” Oliver said.

Although both Hoyt and Oliver occasionally skateboard on campus, they still feel a lack of options when it comes to local attractions.

“There’s a huge skateboarding scene at Kent State,” Hoyt said. “You could tell with the first day of spring we had when it was warm outside. All you could hear was people skating around.”

Hoyt went on to say he hears several students say they don’t have a lot of options when choosing something to do, and Hoyt thinks that could even contribute to a larger drinking scene.

“I hear a lot of people say they drink just because there’s nothing else to do,” Hoyt said. “I think it (a skate park) would encourage people to follow a hobby.”

Hoyt said a skate park could even be a stepping stone for beginners.

“It might inspire someone to try something new because the resources are right in front of you,” he said. “They could end up finding something they’re really passionate about.”

Both Hoyt and Oliver agree a skate park would be more popular during the summer, but an indoor park would have the potential to boost the economy all year round. They both cited weather conditions as the main reason they stop skating.

Regardless of the park or its features however, both Hoyt and Oliver are in favor.

“I think it would be something that could really contribute to the community here around Kent,” Hoyt said.

Local skate parks

Downview Sports Center,

1617 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls — (330) 971-8418

• Free outdoor park featuring 4-foot deep bowls and ramps; pyramids; fun boxes; railings; steps and grind boxes.

Rotary Skate Park

2913 Graham Road, Stow — (330) 689-5100

• Free outdoor park featuring a wide variety of ramps, railings, steps and grind boxes.

Akron Skate Park

Service Road, Akron — (330) 375-2804

• Free outdoor park featuring areas for every skill level. It includes larger bowls; a snake roll leading into a bowl; a spine; stairs; railings and quarter pipes.

Contact features correspondent Denise Wright at [email protected].