01 Jul 2011

Skateboards in the Capitol’s Skyline

photo by Sonja Walti

Guest post by Sonja Walti

Nearly all seats were taken in the media room of RFK Stadium on June 28, when Events DC informed the community about a proposed skatepark on parking lot 3 across from the Armory. The project is intended to provide a venue for national and international events, while also serving the community. Maloof Money Cup will foot the $700,000 to $1 million bill for the RFK skatepark and in return benefit from hosting an annual event there. Besides neighbors and community members, some with their skateboard tucked under the table, Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, Naomi Mitchell from Ward 6 Councilman Well’s office, and ANC and NCPC representatives sought information about the proposed skatepark.

Erik Moses, senior vice-president of Events DC and managing director of its Sport and Entertainment Division (formerly the Washington Convention and Sports Authority), pointed to the low rising concrete features of the proposed “skateboard plaza”, a design popular among skateboarding pros who participate in national and international competitions. Skateboard plazas don’t include half-pipes but instead emulate stairs, hand rails, curbs, and retaining walls coveted by the skateboarding community of a particular city.

Moses, flanked by Bill Minadeo of concrete skate park designer and builder California Skateparks, was not quite through with his presentation when he was peppered with questions from neighbors, who were likely envisioning rogue teens slamming their skateboards against the concrete at all hours of the day: What about security, what about toilets, lighting, and opening hours? And what about parking, traffic, and noise during events?

“You mention national and international sporting events, skateboarders from across DC, neighborhood teens, spectators; who exactly will this park serve?” an attendee demanded. “All of the above,” Moses answered a tad flippantly, but turned the ensuing silence to his advantage by detailing benefits for the community and the city as a whole.

Skateboard events, most importantly the Maloof Money Cup 2011, which Events DC hopes to host as an inaugural event on Labor Day, draw modest crowds compared to other sporting events held at RFK. The space around the “plaza” will accommodate temporary seating for 5,000 spectators for an event attracting up to 15,000 visitors over two days. Besides sporting events, the RFK skatepark could be rented to corporations for skateboarding themed promotional events or for the filming of commercials. The number of commercial uses will not be limited in the three to five year contract being negotiated between Events DC and its sponsoring partner Maloof Money Cup, according to Moses. The audience was assured that, on most of the days, the skatepark –which will be donated to the city upon completion – will be open and freely accessible to the public.

Events DC hopes that the RFK skatepark will be populated by neighborhood teens and skateboarders from across the District, who increasingly see the police crack down on them for running their boards across public and private spaces. Councilwoman Alexander sees it as an opportunity to curb the abuse by skateboarders of public facilities and buildings, such as Freedom Plaza, the Archives, and the World Bank. A mother (the author of this article), who is excited to see a recreational opportunity added for her emerging middle schooler, was assured that Events DC would welcome partnerships with nearby Eliot-Hine middle school and Eastern high school. An attendee’s question about sustainability features popular in West Coast skateboard plaza projects, such as a rain garden to manage water runoff, remained unanswered, but Events DC assured the audience that it will keep up the green space around the plaza.

Amid the prospect of seeing a parking lot demolished and populated by a community of teens depicted by one attendee as “self-policing,” the audience turned to debating how to assure that this project is up and running by September. The builder will need 45 days to build the plaza and pledges to draw on the DC workforce during its completion.

Stay tuned–the next decisive meetings for the RFK skatepark are before the National Capital Planning Commission on July 7 and before the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts on July 21.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/East_H East_H

    Did they present any plans or concept art? Seems like there is a wide variety of plan types on the California Skateparks website. If they build one that incorporates green space and looks more like a proper event space with brick rather than a bunch of miscolored concrete slabs, I could get behind this.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WW246SKRVTQVBIDFQUYGRCCH2E Sonja Walti

      Although they did show plans, those are not yet available on the Events DC website. Moses assured me that they will be made available once they have cleared various stages. I’m told they don’t want anyone saying “but you promised this, that, and the other”… Here is what I understood from the visuals presented and the comments to such questions:
      The (rectangular) “plaza” will be surrounded by green space (grass, shrubs, etc) with the current mature trees (see photo) on the outside of the fence left in place. The plaza itself will be made of special concrete and emulate popular skateboarding features from around DC (such as the golden handrails at Metro Center I believe). The constraint on the greenery around the plaza is that it will need to accommodate temporary bleachers (constraints for trees namely) but since they come in standard format that’s not too difficult. The greening questions that I didn’t hear addressed are: How could the green space around the plaza be made more sustainable (a rain garden rather than just grass for example)? And how could the design accommodate a tree or some green space included within the plaza itself (as you can see is not uncommon in popular designs by California Skateboards)?
      In my opinion, while the proposed plan is a vast improvement over the asphalt currently in its place, there is room for improvement on that front.

  • http://twitter.com/East_H East_H

    Some of the plans have been posted to the ANC 7D01 website:

    http://anc7d01.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/skate-park-in-rfk-lot-3/

  • http://twitter.com/East_H East_H

    Some of the plans have been posted to the ANC 7D01 website:

    http://anc7d01.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/skate-park-in-rfk-lot-3/