Skateboarders can get big air at new city park

Angela Hoover

The first phase of construction on a new 30-acre Kent city park begins this summer. The new park will have a dedicated skating area complete with at least one ramp, said John Idone, parks and recreation director.

The new park, a former compost site on Admore Drive, is adjacent to Al Lease Park on Silver Meadows Boulevard, Idone said. It will also feature two athletic fields, a playground, picnic shelters and walking trails. city council approved the site plans earlier this month, Idone said.

Local skate shop Evolution on East Day Street across the street from the police station, is helping bridge together the skaters and city officials.

“Often, what happens is people who do not skate build a skatepark that people who do skate don’t want to skate at,” said Laura Torchia, co-owner of Evolution with her husband, Mike.

Talk of a Kent skatepark has been “on and off the table” for about 10 years, Torchia said. But the plans were never seen through, even five to six years ago when there was “a big push” for it, she said.

“So far, the city has seemed very open and accepting about it,” Torchia said.

She and Mike have periodically called the parks and recreation department to check the status of the park and offer their assistance. Besides running Evolution for three years and both being skaters, they also built an indoor skatepark in south-downtown Canton, also called Evolution, about two years ago.

“We have experience with maintenance, what skaters want and the fickleness of teenagers,” Torchia said.

They spent $1.25 million on the indoor skatepark, she said. But an indoor park has different construction and maintenance challenges.

Last fall, Idone finally told them the Kent park was back on the table. The three sat down this spring to brainstorm plans for the skating area.

“Our whole goal in our involvement in this is to give the skaters a voice,” Torchia said. “So what is built is something that will be what it needs to be for the skaters and what they want. We want to contribute to the park and help to show our commitment to seeing this happen,” she said of Evolution and local skaters.

Idone presented different types of ramps and building materials with potential costs he had researched to her and Mike, Torchia said.

“John had a lot of information and had already done a great deal of research,” Torchia said. “I was impressed with how much he already knew.”

Since that meeting, Evolution designed a brief survey on what skaters want to see in the new park. About 100 surveys have been filled out so far, Torchia said. The survey includes issues such as what material to use on the ramp, hours the skatepark operates and lighting.

“The kids are really stoked on a new park because Kent has never had a park,” Torchia said. Skaters range in age from 8 to 35, she said.

The best ramps are “concrete all the way,” because they stand up better to the environment, leading to less repairs, Torchia said. Concrete also offers the most varied riding, she said.

“That weird stuff they make, we are really against it,” she said of the fiberglass modular pieces made by playground equipment manufacturers. The modular pieces fit together like Legos and break, she said. And when they break, they become really dangerous to skaters.

Also, unlike fiberglass, concrete can withstand the wear and tear caused by BMX-bikers, who are not supposed to ride on skateboarding ramps, but do anyway, she said.

The new park is expected to cost about $250,000, Idone said. $50,000 to $100,000 of that amount will be for the skating area, he said, although Torchia said she believes it will be more toward the $100,000 end if it’s to be built right and per the skaters’ preferences.

The parks and recreation department has $75,000 in its budget and will begin draining and ground leveling of the site this summer, while it continues planning the skating area with community members, Idone said.

“We will proceed with the site development and more detailed design this summer,” Idone said.

The rest of the money will be raised through fundraisers and donations, Idone said.

If enough money is raised, construction will begin next spring and the park can be ready for use next summer, he said.

Evolution plans to have a benefit concert or two, Torchia said. Whether in Canton or Kent, she said she does not yet know. She would also like to see a community auction with donations from local businesses, she said.

“We are willing to help in both the designing and the fundraising,” Torchia said. “Baseball players don’t have to raise money for diamonds and tennis players don’t have to raise money for courts, but here we are, raising money for skating because that is how much we and the local skaters want to see this happen.”

There is also the potential for a park levy, Idone said.

And skating is not allowed at Kent State.

“Having a public skatepark for skaters would stop them from defacing public buildings, including the university,” Torchia said.

On the Web, visit www.skateevolutionkent.com for updates, events or to get involved.

Contact public affairs reporter Angela Hoover at [email protected]