Skateparks: Education, Awareness, Design.

Founded in 2017, the Sioux Falls Skatepark Association was created with the goal to bring a new skatepark facility to the Sioux Falls area. Within the past few years, this group has held various fundraising events, participated in community events, and developed their non-profit status to benefit those in the area who find an outlet in wheeled sports.

Working closely with the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation, SFSA is pursing the establishment of an accessible skatepark & public plaza at Drake Springs. Located between the site of the current swimming pool & the intersection of East 10th Street and Cliff Avenue, the proposed park will be highly visible to residents, enthusiasts, and tourists. The proximity to the bike path, bus stops, restaurants, retail and downtown Sioux Falls provide indispensable assets, rendering Drake Springs a prime candidate for community development and economic growth.

Image courtesy of Newline Skateparks

To be honest, I knew nothing about skating – the lingo, the tricks, the culture, only the stereotypes. Then I saw Kanten Russell, ex pro-skateboarder turned skatepark designer, present at the same conference I spoke at about five years ago. He demonstrated his passion for providing well-designed skateparks for communities all over the world by presenting designs that were created based on the public input of each community. These communities had differing goals, biases, and expectations that were recognized and resolved in the design and construction of these parks. His knowledge of skating as a professional skateboarder also helped! Each park he presented was not the typical metal and wood or concrete skatepark behind a wire fence in the industrial centers of town, but were beautiful additions accessible to all members of the city that created a new sense of community.

Plaza at the Forks, Winnipeg, MB
Photo Courtesy of Newline Skateparks

When I heard about the progress of the Sioux Falls Skatepark Association, I knew Kanten would be a great resource to this group. And last week, in spite of the weather and closed airport, Kanten Russell made it to Sioux Falls, South Dakota! Through various meetings and tour through our city, Kanten was able to get a feel for what the SFSA has planned for the Sioux Falls area. Below is the Facebook Live event that was created at White Wall Sessions last week as a public forum to begin discussions of design and impact of this new park for our community.

After his initial visit, I had the pleasure working with Kanten over this past week on how he as a designer is able to work with the skating communities to help bring their dreams into reality.

Q&A With Kanten Russell

Kanten Russell
Photo courtesy of Newline Skateparks

AD Could you give a brief bio of who you are and what lead you into designing skate parks? 
KR– I grew up in San Diego and was a professional skateboarder for 12 years. I was able to travel all over the world and had my own line of skateboarding hardware, clothing, and signature shoes. After retiring from skateboarding I transitioned into Skate Park design professionally for the last 13 years. I think designing skateparks was a natural fit for me with my background in skateboarding. I really wanted to do something that would challenge me intellectually and not just be focused so much on the physical nature of skateboarding itself. It was a good change and now I can harness all of my talents into one place.

AD- How have you seen the skating community grow over the last 25 years?
KR– When I started skateboarding all the skateparks had closed for liability reasons and participation was declining. Skateboarding was more counter-culture and underground. My career as a professional skateboarder was skateboarding everywhere illegally until the early 2000’s when concrete skateparks started to appear in cities around the country and then participation seemed to really explode. Now skateboarding is recognized as a legitimate sport even though it is also more of a culture and an artform. Now that skateboarding is going into the Olympics in 2020 we have seen the demand for skateparks increase to give the users a legal place to recreate just like soccer, football, and basketball.

AD- Through the design of over 250 skateparks all over the world what other functions do you consider when designing?
KR– The more sustainable and integrated you can make a skatepark project the better it is as a community asset. Re-use of natural materials, landscaped areas to capture storm water, and creative sculptural elements can all be skate-able features.

AD- Have you seen an evolution of those who use local skateparks?
KR- Yes, creating a project to be multi-use barrier free, and accessible has gone a long way to open things up to the community and not for just one specific group of users. We now see riders of all ages and genders using the facilities. Even entire families are riding together!

AD- What are the benefits to creating a space for skating/skaters? The linked article showcases impact skate parks have had on local communities in South Dakota, particularly the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Skate Parks Save Lives: Culture Benefits and Ollies for Native Youth
KR- Skateparks can be a positive physical and mental outlet especially in communities that don’t have a lot of recreational space to offer. For kids that might not identify with traditional or team sports having an individual opportunity to express yourself and do something on your own time at your own pace can keep the youth away from substance abuse, crime, and depression.

AD- By being invited into early conversations with the community, how are you as a designer able to educate the communities about skate parks?
KR- I think the typical public perception of skateparks is not always a positive one. People tend to think it will have a negative impact when in reality the opposite is true. Have public information and design input meetings can help show what the project is about and all the positive things a skatepark can be as a recreational outlet for skateboards, bikes, scooters, inline, and any other wheeled sports. Showing how aesthetic and sculptural these facilities can be is a real eye opener and shows they are not grey concrete prisons like skateparks from over 20 years ago. Sharing success stories in other cities that have skateparks of similar sizes and how much they get used can put some of the concerns to rest. Using online media can be a great tool to share this information and gain momentum to share helpful facts and statistics. There are a lot of good online resources available that can be shared this way and in person through a public process. It’s better to be transparent and help everyone understand that if your city doesn’t have a well designed and located skatepark your city becomes the skatepark.

AD- What is the design process with communities you have worked with and how long does the process take?
KR- Typically, we try to hold 2-3 public input meetings that start off to share information on what a skatepark looks like and how it functions as a public recreational space for users and for spectators. We then have the community give input on the type of functional terrain and social amenities they want for their dream skatepark. We take that information and create concepts that we can get more feedback on before we finalize a schematic masterplan that can then be used for cost estimating and securing the funding for construction. We present that final vision to get approval to proceed to detailed design and then plan documentation that can be used for the construction of the skatepark. Either we would then build the skatepark in a design-build delivery or oversee the construction for quality control if it goes out to public bid for construction. The design process and public meeting timeline can vary from 6-12 months on average and then construction can be 4-6 months.

AD- What economic or work force implications have you seen after the construction of a community skate park?
Some of the economic benefits can come in the form of increased tourism and an increase in people coming to Sioux Falls just to ride the skatepark as an attraction not found outside of the area. There is also an opportunity to have local events that can also have a positive increase in revenue for local businesses like the food and hotel industry.

See below for an interview with Kanten Russell on how to build the perfect skatepark.

Building the Perfect Skatepark with Kanten Russell.

For ways to help contribute to the fundraising efforts of the Sioux Falls Skatepark Association please check out their Facebook page: Sioux Falls Skatepark Association!

Join the conversation and in on the fun this weekend at two events being held by the SFSA:

Shreduary Indoor Skate

Information provided by Kanten Russell and Newline Skateparks:
A long-time fixture in the professional skateboarding world, Kanten is a Design Project Manager for New Line Skateparks Inc. Growing up in Southern California—the birthplace of skateboarding—Kanten quickly became a leading figure in the region’s skateboarding scene and was a professional skateboarder for 12 years, traveling all over the world. After retiring from skateboarding he transitioned into Skate Park design professionally for the last 13 years.

Kanten has led the design process of over 250 skate parks across North America including one of the world’s first “green” skate parks in St. Cloud, Minnesota; a skate plaza in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, which converted a brownfield into an active space to help combat childhood obesity; and the Alga Norte Community Skate Park in Carlsbad, California.
Social Media: @kantenrussell
New Line Skateparks is Canada’s longest running and most respected municipal skatepark design and construction team. As industry pioneers with nearly 200 highly recognized projects and over a decade of concrete skatepark development experience, our team of Registered Landscape Architects, Engineering Experts, Construction Professionals, and Passionate Skateboarders offers a signature brand of design and construction expertise focused on creating integrated skateboarding environments that truly respond to the needs of youth while thoughtfully considering the entire community. The result is one of a kind site-built concrete skateparks that not only provide compelling world-class terrain, but celebrated public spaces that incorporate culturally relevant art and sculpture, inviting viewing/socializing areas, sustainable development principles, and strong connections to surrounding amenities.

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