Full steam ahead for skate park fundraising

With committees in place and local skateboarders willing to help out, the fundraising aspect of the skate park project being spearheaded by the Kiwanis Club is moving full steam ahead.
And the first show of generosity from the private sector was Ted Brockie, owner of Brockie’s Jewellers, who gave a $500 donation to organizer Steve Maki yesterday afternoon.
“I think it will be great for the town and great for the kids,” remarked Brockie. “It’s good clean fun.
“I challenge other businesses to follow suit,” he added.
“Ted’s the first businessman to come forward like this. He’s the one who tracked me down,” enthused Maki. “He obviously thinks its important to have a park.”
The donation brings the pot to about the $50,300 mark—$4,800 of which was donated by the now-defunct Rotary Club and the balance by the Kiwanis and Town of Fort Frances.
But Maki noted the pace soon will pick up as a “board-a-thon” to raise money for the project, which could cost as much as $300,000 to build, has been scheduled for Dec. 14.
At that time, skateboarders, who will be collecting pledges very soon, will do laps around the upper part of the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Maki said he’s confident the youth can raise a significant amount of money, especially if sponsors rationalize just how much sports cost to participate in these days.
“If we, as parents, spend a $1,000 a year on other sports our children might be involved in, like gymnastics or hockey, you can see this as a one-time expenditure,” he remarked.
“If every parent of a skateboarder gave $500, and they would get back a tax receipt, we’ll effectively raise enough money to make one of the best skate parks in Canada,” Maki added.
As an incentive for kids to drum up pledges, Gord McQuarrie of Skates and Blades here has had 11 skateboards donated as prizes for the top pledge-getters at each area school.
Meanwhile, during a visit to town Saturday, skate park designer Jim Barnum of British Columbia said the local effort to get one built here next year is one of the most organized community initiatives he’s been involved with.
“They are absolutely heading in the right direction. I hardly had to give them any advice,” said Bar-num, who met with the Kiwanis skate park committee Saturday morning to visit the proposed site near the Memorial Sports Centre.
“Steve [Maki] seems to have the natural ability to do these kinds of things, get people organized, and the youth involved to get something done,” he added.
“The number-one aspect of building a skate park is the will to do it,” Barnum stressed. “The greatest obstacles are finding the site and getting the money—I think they’ve got it covered.”
The aim of the skate board project is to see a 13,000 sq. ft. concrete park built on the former arena ball diamond next spring.
Barnum said some common concerns communities have about skate parks—like skateboarding is just a fad and the facility won’t be used after its novelty wears off—just aren’t founded.
“All the stats have shown nothing but growth,” he noted, adding there’s an estimated 16 million skateboarders in North America.
“[Skateboarding] was the second fastest-growing sport in 2000, with 30.2 percent growth in one year. That’s just behind snowboarding,” he enthused.
“Skateboarding came and went in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, but it’s not ever going to go away,” added Barnum. “The park I grew up with was built in 1977. I started using it in 1985.
“And the usage keeps on growing. Every time Tony Hawk—the Michael Jordan of skateboarding—is in the area, he skates there.”
Barnum, who designed the largest skate park in the world in Calgary two years ago, also met with about 30 local youths who came out later Saturday to learn about how to build a skate park.
“I know a lot of you are asking, ‘Is this really going to happen?’” he said. “Oh yeah, it’s going to happen.
“With the parents and people like Steve [Maki] leading the way, and you helping them, nothing will stop it,” he remarked while doing a presentation in the Memorial Sports Centre auditorium.
Barnum noted having skateboarders involved in building a skate park is crucial to its success, and even encouraged the youth on hand to get physically involved with the construction process—not only to cut costs but so they can see how a park develops from an empty lot.
“Building a skate park is unbelievable,” he said. “The hardest part is finishing the job. Once you see what it’s finally going to look like, you just want to start skating there.”
Barnum wrapped up his talk with a session where the skateboarders got to draw up what they wanted in a skate park.
Hailing from Gold Bridge, B.C., Barnum is president of Spectrum Skatepark Creations and also a sponsored amateur skateboarder with 19 years experience under his belt.
His reputation as a skate park designer is growing to international proportions as communities in Mexico, Taiwan, and Spain recently have contacted him to build skate parks there.
The one in Spain is expected to be two-three acres in size—making it the largest in the world.
The next general meeting of the skate park committee is slated Nov. 19 at the Memorial Sports Centre.