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Monday, January 8, 2007

Sold Out

posted by on January 8 at 14:13 PM

This entry was posted by news intern Brian Turner

When the city’s skatepark task force meets tonight, one of the first topics they will cover is how to replace the last remaining skatepark in the central city, which was demolished last week to make way for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s new headquarters. More than a half million dollars set aside from the sale of the 12-acre parking lot where the skatepark was located will go toward replacing it somewhere on the Center campus.

The destruction of the skatepark came as a surprise to skaters like John Carr and Matt Johnston, both members of a citywide skatepark task force, who were under the impression that a site for a replacement park would be named before the wrecking crew came through.

Carr and other skateboarding advocates met about seven months ago with Seattle Center and city officials to find a feasible location on the Seattle Center campus. Seattle Center communications director Kari Shaw says, “It was a positive meeting and lots of great ideas were exchanged.” However, she adds, “It’s a long process of identifying where the skatepark needs to be. We’re looking for a spot that is 15,000 square feet and there is not a lot of space like that [at the Center].”

Johnston, however, says Seattle Center officials have not been eager to communicate with the skateboarding community. “We walked around the entire campus and had to listen to why a skatepark was not possible on every inch of the campus,” Johnston says.

Pro-skatepark city council members Richard Conlin (and, reportedly, Jan Drago) agree that working with Seattle Center has been challenging.

“Why [skaters and Center officials] have been at odds baffles me,” Conlin says. “The skatepark could bring in a new constituencyyoung people to activate it more than it is now. But [Center officials] don’t seem to think that way.”

Conlin adds that he didn’t expect the demolition to happen so soon. “I’m not happy that it would take place without a replacement for the park being sited,” he says.

The requirement to rebuild the park comes from a city council resolution sponsored by Council Member Drago almost two years ago. IRIS Holdings, a for-profit company closely affiliated with the Gates Foundation, bought the property in 2005. The company is also heading the development of the foundation’s new headquarters where the skatepark once stood.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement between the Gates Foundation and Seattle Center, the new skatepark is supposed to be open by the time the parking facility for the new headquarters is finished in late 2008.

In a letter to City Attorney Tom Carr’s office, lawyers for the Gates Foundation reiterated that “it is incumbent on the [Center] to complete its actions and obligations to relocate the skateboard park.”

For now, though, there isn’t so much as a sketch of what the new park will look like.

The skatepark task force will meet at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the Seattle Parks and Administration Building, 100 Dexter Ave N.

RSS icon Comments


They'll probably rebuild it, but it won't be accessible to the public ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 8, 2007 3:12 PM

Skating isn't perceived by some as "family" oriented so the Seattle Center people don't know what to do.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 8, 2007 3:46 PM

Lose the funforest, build a skate park.

Posted by Josh | January 8, 2007 4:13 PM

Actually, they built (and have rebuilt) the first public skatepark in Seattle. They have tried to be good to skaters in the past, but largely due to the fact that they wanted to get skaters off the main campus.

What they "know" is that the old park attracted graffiti, "bad" behavior (smoking, swearing), and the occasional fight. They don't want this stuff on the main campus.

What they don't seem to know despite repeated explanations by skate advocates, is that if the park is well integrated into a vibrant space on the campus, with good visibility, no fence, something for adult skaters to skate, and lots of room for spectators...most if not all of the anti-social behavior will disappear.

If you locate a skaetpark across the street in a parking lot nether region, cage it in with a giant fence, and make it nearly impossible for adults to stop and enjoy watching the activities, you are designing failure into the skate park.

In fact, no matter what you build under those conditions will attract problems.

Posted by MLJ | January 8, 2007 4:24 PM

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