At its regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly approved a $129,000 sole-source contract to build a new one-third-acre skate park in the Eagle River-Chugiak area, north of Alaska's largest city. The city is proposing to build the park at the Loretta French Sports Complex along the Old Glenn Highway. The contract awarded the bid to Spohn Ranch Skateparks, a specialty builder of skateboarding and in-line skating parks in Los Angeles.
According to Skaters for Public Parks, a skateboard advocacy group, there are as many as 12.4 million people who regularly skateboard in the U.S. Will Ingram, owner of Anchorage skate shop Zak's Boardroom, estimates there are thousands of skaters just in Anchorage. Ingram said the sport is growing in both popularity and acceptance throughout Alaska, but also said the proliferation of public places where kids and adults can ride hasn't kept up with demand.
In January, the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department identified the Eagle River site as the best in the area for a new skate park. After a unanimous vote from the Chugiak Community Council and the Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation's Board of Supervisors, the city awarded Spohn the contract to build the new park instead of sending the proposal to open bid; it claims the sole-source award will save time and money. The plan calls for about a dozen colorful, precision-cast concrete skate features -- like ramps and bowls -- to give skaters a more street-like feel to the park.
Supporters of skate parks in Anchorage say the addition in Eagle River will be welcomed by kids who don't currently have enough safe and legal places to practice their sport. Though at times in the past, skateboarding and skaters were considered something of a public nuisance, for some skateboarding is a way to stay healthy and sane.
"Once you get to 16, 17, 18 (years old) -- if you don't have something you truly love, you can go down these dark roads you don't really want to go down," said Zak's Boardroom Manager Tim Blevans. "It saved my life. If it weren't for skateboarding, I wouldn't be here today."
While the Eagle River skate park will be a welcome addition for Southcentral boarders, Anchorage enthusiasts say more parks should be built.
"We get kind of screwed up here," said Ingram. "I don't think people understand how many skateboarders there actually are."
Contact Sean Doogan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By SEAN DOOGAN