Daily Kent Stater
Gary Lane spent most of his adolescence in Kent running from the police because of his addiction to skateboarding.
“I’ve never even had a speeding ticket,” said Lane, 32, who is now a Kent firefighter. “But between 10th grade and 12th grade, I probably ran from the police or got yelled at 50 to 100 times. There would be 10 kids skating and then scattering when they saw a police car like they’ve committed a felony.”
Kent ordinances prohibit skateboarding on any roadway, except when crossing the street, and upon any sidewalk within a business district or next to a sign that forbids skating.
Lane and fellow skaters, however, will soon have a place in Kent where they can practice their sport with freedom. The Kent Parks and Recreation Department and local skateboarding enthusiasts are raising money to build the city’s first skate park, said John Idone, director of Parks and Recreation.
Idone said the Parks and Recreation Department has set aside $50,000 in next year’s budget to build a skate park on Admore Drive, which is off state Route 59. There are also plans to establish several fields for football, soccer and lacrosse next to the skate park. The skate park alone could cost between $75,000 and $150,000, so more money needs to be raised, Idone said.
“We’re looking at doing some private fund raising,” Idone said. “We’re looking at some foundation support, some community support and using park-levy money.”
Parks and Recreation has enlisted a Kent State architecture class to help with the park’s design. Idone said he expects the design for the park to be completed next spring, but the time table for building depends on
Idone said he has teamed with Laura and Mike Torchia, owners of Evolution Skate Shop at 106 E. Day St. in Kent, to raise money and get input from skateboarders about the park’s design. Parks and Recreation and the Torchias took part in a skateboarding movie day in August that raised $500.
“We told them (Parks and Recreation) we’re committed to get the fund raising because the kids and parents are interested,” Laura said. “They have a world-class hockey rink here, but there are a lot more kids who skate than play hockey.”
The Torchias posted surveys on their Web site (www.skateevolution.com) to find out what types of equipment skaters want in the park. Laura said she and her husband helped build a skate park in Canton, and she wants the park in Kent to be done right.
“(Skaters) pretty much just want a place that has the features they’re asking for,” she said. “They want a park designed and built by skaters.”
Zach Morris, a sophomore at Ravenna High School, said he wants a park that simulates street skating with stairs and rails to grind on. Morris said he is excited about the plan to build a park close to his home.
“I think it will be really sweet because everywhere we go, we get kicked out,” Morris said. “Every day it’s just a big hassle to find a new place to skate.”
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller has shown his support for the skate park by making it the subject of his blog (www.kent360.com) on consecutive days. Ruller said the park can attract people to the city and make a positive economic impact.
“Nobody in our region, immediately around us, has really kind of gone into this at the level of what we would like to do,” Ruller said. “It’s kind of exciting to think we’ll pull kids in from Stow, we’ll pull kids in from Hudson and we’ll pull kids in from wherever else around us. As they come maybe they’ll spend a little money or maybe they’ll go to college here. You don’t know where it’s going to go, but you’ve got to do all you can to be the kind of place where people want to be.”
A good skate park can be a tourist attraction, said Lane, a graduate of Kent Roosevelt. He said he has made several friends while visiting skate parks throughout the country, and the sport has had a positive affect on his life.
“There are people my age who haven’t been able to travel like I have,” he said. “The places I traveled to were because of skateboarding. I met a lot of people. It also kept me out of trouble. It might sound silly, but it kept me off of drugs.”
Lane said a skate park should be a perfect fit for his hometown.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s a great thing. You’ve got a college town, multiple elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school. You’ve skaters from other towns looking for a place to go. Why not have a good place in Kent?”
Contact public affairs reporter Nate Ulrich at [email protected]