Project Must Now Secure Funds for Construction
by Jeremy Morrison
Pensacola’s public skatepark is still just a dream. The land underneath the interstate overpass still sits empty. But the dream now has a solid foundation, as the design phase of the project — representing about $100,000 in soft-costs — wraps up.
“We’re pretty much done with that,” said Jon Shell, a local skater who came up with the concept. “We’re kind of fine-tuning the design.”
Shell had thought for sometime that Pensacola needed a publicly open space specifically suited to skateboarders — same as the city has ballfields and tennis courts — and first pitched the concept to the Pensacola City Council in October 2016. Council members were immediately receptive and agreed to donate a city block near downtown for the purpose.
Since then, numerous members of the local community — individuals, businesses, elected officials, foundations and organizations — have donated money, as well as professional services to accomplish the design phase of the project. This phase has included civil engineering, surveying and geotechnical work. It has also involved designing the park itself, which includes not only a skatepark but other amenities, such as a walking path and amphitheater.
Shell said the design phase — which included elements such as working with engineers to improve stormwater issues in the flood-prone area — was fairly intense. And more expensive than he had anticipated.
“I didn’t know that it’d be $100,000 just to get to a point where you’re ready to go,” Shell said.
The skateboarder, who is also a realtor, said he recognizes the funds donated thus far could have foot the bill for a pretty decent — if simple, straightforward — skatepark. But he feels the project as it’s been designed, with a top-end skatepark tied into a proposed greenway under I-110, is worth the effort and expense.
“We could’ve built a $100,000 park, but we’re playing the long game and we’ll have something really special,” Shell said.
From the onset, Shell has pitched the park — called the Blake Doyle Community Park, in memory of a friend and local skater —as an “iconic venue.” He enlisted California’s Spohn Ranch, a notable company in the industry, to work on designs and envisions a space capable of accommodating national contests, but also accessible to all skill levels.
Shell’s feeling good about such high aspirations after sharing some designs with Peter Whitley, programs director for the Tony Hawk Foundation.
“He basically said he was really impressed,” Shell relayed. “It made me feel great. It was some validation. People around here, they see it and they like it, [but] I think this guy sees it and really understands what we’re trying to do.”
Tony Hawk, since the 1980s, is considered the most recognized skateboarder in the world. His foundation provides funding to local communities for the construction of skateboard parks in an effort to provide youth in the area a safe place to skate.
Shell has applied for funding from the Tony Hawk Foundation and is hopeful Pensacola’s project is selected by the organization. Construction of the skatepark alone carries a costs of $1.2 million, while funding plans for the entire city block will run about $2.5 million. After construction is completed, the park will be handed to the city to maintain.
The Tony Hawk Foundation is but one source from which the park could potentially receive funding. The project is also in line to possibly benefit from some RESTORE funding, which stems from environmental penalties related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The skatepark, as it relates to the larger Hollice T. Williams Urban Greenway project, is among a group of projects vying for the funds locally.
Shell is also hoping for an IMPACT 100 grant. If the park receives funds from the local organization, it would be used to fund a common area located in the northeast corner of the site. This area, dubbed the IMPACT 100 Plaza, would serve as an entry point to the park and would also be the first phase to begin construction.
If IMPACT 100 selects the skatepark as a beneficiary of one of its grants, Shell said, work on the plaza area could begin by next spring.
For background information, read “(Half)pipe Dreams, How a Skatepark Could Play in Pensacola,” and “Skatepark Approved for Pensacola.”
For more information about the proposed Blake Doyle Community Park, click here.