What began as mere discussions in 2004 has evolved into a $1.8 million state-of-the-art skate park, which will become the only skate park of its kind in Cobb County, said Doug Taylor, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department.
Within 30,000 square feet of skatable area, the park includes two bowls, also called “pools,” where skaters can ride up and down steep inclines, practicing flips and air moves, and a plaza area, complete with ledges and step rails for skaters to slide on, Taylor said.
The entire project has been funded by 2011 SPLOST funds and private donations, and Mayor Mark Mathews says the city has seized every opportunity to save money on the project.
Long time coming
Mathews said discussions began in 2004 when he was a member of the City Council on what residents wanted and needed looking forward.
From community input meetings and talks with residents, Mathews said it was clear the city needed to invest in a skate park.
Many of the city’s youth were into the sport and often seen skating down the rails in Adams Park in the city, Taylor said.
“They really didn’t have a place to skate,” Taylor said. “A lot of parents and kids asked for a skate park, we didn’t know that there was such a need.”
The city knew it had to provide a place to skate, but didn’t have the money to fund it on its own, Mathews said.
Soon after talks emerged about installing a skate park, groups of residents formed and began to raise money for the project, and a skate park committee was formed with residents and city employees.
“As anything does when you get to working with a committee, things tend to get a little bigger than when they started,” Mathews said.
Temporary place to sustain the residents
A temporary and portable skate ramp was purchased for the city back around 2008, Mathews said, for about $30,000, with funds the community had raised. The wooden ramp was meant to sustain the city until an even bigger skate park was built, he said.
It was installed inside Swift-Cantrell Park and was extremely popular, Mathews said.
“It really cemented to the council how huge the need for the community was for the skate park,” said Councilwoman Cris Welsh.
A change of plans
The city continued to plan and fundraise for a new park, when Mathews received a call in 2010 from MTV superstar Rob Dyrdek, the creator of street-league skating, which focuses on tricks and styles of skating within city plazas.
Mathews told Dyrdek that the city had the need for a skate park but lacked the funds to do so, and Dyrdek wrote the city a check that covered the costs of the design process, worth about $70,000, he said.
The next year, residents approved the 2011 SPLOST, from which the city expected to raise $750,000 for a new skate park, and an additional $650,000 for park improvements, which included bathrooms and parking lots, according to a city SPLOST report.
From that point on, the entire city was involved with raising money, cutting costs and promoting the new park.
“Nine years ago, I watched people get involved who never got involved before. That is so exciting to me,” Welsh said.
The Welsh family was at Swift-Cantrell Park last Sunday, she said, where they bumped into a family from Tennessee who stopped by the park on their way home from Florida just to check it out. The family was so excited about the opening this weekend, they told Welsh they are planning on coming down to Saturday’s opening, she said.
City residents have been involved with planning and raising money for the park, and they pitched in hours of work as well.
City employees were most recently involved with building the bathrooms and installing the plumbing for the park, which saved the city thousands of dollars, Taylor said.
“If we could help save money, we did it,” he said.
California Skateparks, a California-based company, was selected to construct the park for $1.8 million.
Construction of the park began in January 2013, and finished earlier this month.
The construction was broken down into two phases. Phase I cost $1.4 million and included the street-league plaza. Phase II cost $400,000, and covered the construction of the skate bowl and slow course. The $400,000 was supposed to have come from funds raised by the Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation, but the foundation wasn’t able to come up with the funds before the construction of Phase I was completed. Instead of sending the construction crews home and then calling them back, which would have cost extra money, the city used $400,000 of the $600,000 of extra 2011 SPLOST funds to ensure the completion of the park. The Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation is expected to raise the $400,000 and use the funds on future park projects, Mathews said.
Kennesaw’s skate park is unlike anything else around the area, Mathews said.
“It’s the only park like this within 300 miles, it’s going to have a fantastic impact on tourism,” he said.
The city expects to have skaters flood the park from all over the country to practice for and compete in qualifying tournaments for national competitions, Mathews said.
Taylor said Kennesaw’s park is the only outdoor concrete skate park in Cobb County and it’s one of the largest in the Southeast.
Gwinnett County has a few skate parks, Taylor said, and there is a similar park in DeKalb, but the city hopes the park will attract visiting skaters who will come for Kennesaw’s unique layout and design.
The Kennesaw skatepark will open at 10 a.m. this Saturday, when members of the Red Bull skateboarding team Ryan Sheckler and Torey Pudwill will try out the new course.
Local businesses, music and food will be at Saturday’s event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Swift-Cantrell Park, 3140 Old 41 Highway.
Helmets will be required for skaters 15 and under, according to the city’s website.
Residents and city employees are expected to come out in numbers on Saturday.
“It was worth the wait and I could not be more proud of the work that has been done,” Welsh said.
Want to go?
* WHAT: Grand Opening of Kennesaw’s Skate Park
* WHO: City of Kennesaw and members of the Red Bull skateboarding team
* WHERE: Swift-Cantrell Park: 3140 Old 41 Highway, Kennesaw
* WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today