Charlottesville’s parks and recreation department has begun an effort to close a gap that opened earlier this year when the City Council reduced funding for a new skate park.
Budget staff originally had recommended that the council fully fund the $1.7 million estimated cost for a new facility at McIntire Park, but elected officials used $200,000 to pay for planning of a replacement track at Charlottesville High School.
“Our goal is to make up the deficit,” said Vic Garber, the city’s recreation manager. “We had $1.5 million that was approved through City Council in the spring in the capital budget, and our goal is to at least exceed the $200,000 we need to put it out to bid.”
A skate park that opened in 2000 was moved to make way for construction of the John W. Warner Parkway’s intersection with the U.S. 250 Bypass. That facility had been built on the site of former tennis courts near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad headquarters.
Duane Brown is chairman of the advisory committee that helped oversee design of the new plan. In the late 1990s, he built a skate ramp for an event held at University Hall by the Rev. Franklin Graham.
“Once they were finished, they gave it to me and then I donated it to the city,” Brown said. “The city got excited by it once they saw the big ramp.”
A temporary skate facility is currently operating in the parking lot for the former golf course and wading pool at McIntire Park.
Brown said he is glad the temporary park exists, but skateboarders are ready for construction to be completed following a series of community meetings to design it.
“The whole skating community is chomping at the bit,” Brown said. “With the younger crowd, it is hard for them to understand the process, but they’re also learning a lot. Even though it’s taking longer than most of them want, it kind of gave them a really first-hand experience of how to work to get things done in their community.”
Parks officials also want to get moving on the new park.
“We are losing skaters,” said Rianne Anthony, a facilities manager with the parks department. “It was a temporary fix, and our skaters are deciding they can go to other places to skate.”
The firm Stantec has completed construction documents for a facility that will be built at the southern edge of the east side of McIntire Park, at the site of the now-closed wading pool. The project was delayed after councilors approved the lower-than-expected budget amount.
“We would be out to bid by now,” Garber said. “I feel comfortable that someone is going to step forward. Maybe someone local is going to see the advantage of a solid skate park here. This is going to be one of the best on the East Coast.”
To get to bid, the city needs to close the funding gap through donations and sponsorships.
“We are talking to a couple of local and national corporations that have shown an interest,” Garber said.
If the fundraising campaign is successful, Garber said he hopes to get the project out to bid by November and have a construction contract signed in the spring. It will take nine months to build the facility.
The budget for the skate park also includes a $25,000 grant from skateboarding legend Tony Hawk through his foundation.
“That has not been spent,” Garber said. “That’s a catalyst that we believe people will get excited about and at least match it.”
Brown works at Freestyle Ski and Board Shop on Westfield Road. He printed out T-shirts to raise money for the new skate park.
“We’re trying to do our part at a grassroots level,” Brown said. “It gives the kids something to show their support.”
Brown said the new park will bring something unique to Charlottesville and the region.
“The [existing] park … is called a component part,” Brown said. “It has pieces that are built from wood and other materials. That’s fine, but parks built like that become somewhat cookie-cutter.”
The new park will be made out of concrete, and its layout will be unique to Charlottesville.
“Our catchphrase is, ‘A world-class skate park for a world-class city,’” Brown said. “The skating community is very excited about this whole thing. It is a new era.”
The parks department also is working with the McIntire Botanical Garden to develop its project in the northern section of the park. The city and the nonprofit organization signed a memorandum of understanding, and garden officials hope to open in 2018.
Councilors approved $1.25 million in capital funds over the next two years to implement the McIntire Park Master Plan, which includes building a trail network to connect the many sections of the park.
Staff members also have been working for years on plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the railroad that cuts McIntire Park in two. People who drive to the skate park will use a parking lot on the western side.