Before City Council members and others hoisted yellow-ribboned shovels, Mayor Mark Mathews described the long wait for that day, starting with a 2001 survey.
“It revealed a dramatic need for a skate park for teens — young people that weren’t into baseball and football and soccer,” he said.
After voters approved a 2004 bond referendum to buy the park from Coca-Cola lawyer Frank Swift, Cobb County conducted its own survey and also discovered a need for a recreation area devoted to skateboarding.
“We decided we wanted to be the location,” Mathews said.
With milestones like a concept in 2006, a committee in 2007, a fundraising foundation in 2010, approval of SPLOST funds in 2011 and construction beginning in 2013, Mathews said, the project has fulfilled a prediction by Attorney General Sam Olens, then chairman of the Cobb County Commission.
“He said the time frame for a public project, for whatever reason, is seven years from concept to construction,” Mathews said. “The skate park is a perfect example of that same cycle. It started in 2006.”
Mathews said the $750,000 cost of Phase I is being raised through the special purpose local option sales tax, not property taxes.
“This is funded by SPLOST and private contributions,” he said. “The first phase — the plaza and the additional parking we so desperately need here — is funded through SPLOST. Phase II will not be started until we receive the funding through grants and private donations.”
There is no firm date for the start of Phase II construction; however, project leader Jeff Drobney previously told the Journal about $1.4 million of the total cost has been secured.
Mathews said the completed park will serve a constituency wider than just the city or the county.
“It’s truly a regional facility. It’s the first and, to my knowledge, the only one designed around a national competition, Street League Skateboarding,” he said about a tour started by professional skateboarder and television personality Rob Dyrdek.
The skate park has already inspired dreams of glory, said Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation President R.J. Patel, who helped promote the 2004 bond referendum.
“We look forward to developing some champions here that will compete in the Street League,” he said. “It’s possible, folks. It’s really possible. Can you imagine seeing the name of a young person with the name Kennesaw, Ga, right next to them? That’s because this park will give them the grounds, literally, to practice. We look forward to those champions.”
They won’t lose out on practice time during inclement weather, Patel said, because the completed park will have enclosed areas.
“That’s exciting, folks: A permanent facility that’s available year-round,” he said. “We look forward to the skate community coming out and enjoying this facility and making it their home.”
Joe Ciaglia, president of Upland, Calif.-based California Skateparks, which will build the skate park, said he enjoyed working with Kennesaw’s leaders.
“The passion you have as a city council about skateboarding made me very comfortable,” he said. “You wanted to make sure the park was built right. A lot of cities compromise. Here in Kennesaw you’re trying to go the extra mile to make it right and give us the freedom to bring an amazing facility with plenty of space. I look forward to coming back and skating with everybody.”
Brian Moore, president of Carlsbad, Calif.-based Site Design Group, said the project has been on his radar since 2007.
“I wanted to find a way to get involved,” he said. “Being in the skate park business for 15 years, traveling all over the country, this is probably my favorite project. I look forward to coming out here for the grand opening.”
Also looking forward to that day are skateboarders like Max Yoder, 23, of Kennesaw.
“It’ll be a fun place to skate where we won’t get hassled by the cops,” he said before the ceremony.
Charles Hollifield, 25, of Kennesaw, agreed.
“Without having a designated place for 25 years, it’s nice to have a place where we can go,” he said.
In the meantime, skateboarders will have to go elsewhere since the “skate spot” they have been using since 2008 is the same land where the eight ceremonial shovels took their first bite of soil.
Patel said the $25,000 wooden structure has been disassembled and shipped back to Henry County, the site of its maker, McDonough-based Hazard County Skatepark.
“They took it down yesterday,” Patel said Thursday. “We donated it to Henry County. What they’re going to do with it I’m not sure. They were kind enough to come here, disassemble it and take it away.”
In the meantime, Hollifield said he will make use of other bowls and ramps.
“We’ll maybe travel to the other city skate parks,” he said about sites such as the 26,000-square-foot Brook Run Skate Park in Dunwoody, also built by Ciaglia’s company.