Warm up and get ready to roll! The renovation of the park under Washington-Jefferson Bridge has begun, and what will be the biggest covered and lighted skate park in the country will reach completion in March 2014.
The project has finally materialized after years of fundraising and meetings between the city and skaters. The real construction starts this week after a “demolition phase.” The 23,000-sq.-ft. skate park will be the only one covered, lit and public with a 24/7 facility access, says Emily Proudfoot, a landscape architect in Parks and Open Space Planning for the city of Eugene.
Even though the renovation is under way, the south part of the park between 6th and 7th avenues is still accessible and frequented by homeless people. One homeless woman, who goes by Lilly, has been staying there for a couple weeks now. She says that she will stay until they tell her to go. She plans on going to a shelter for the winter.
“I think in addition of this being a fabulous skate park, it’s gonna be a fabulous park,” says Janet Brown, a board member of Skaters for Eugene Skateparks. In addition to the skate park, the renovation project includes an urban plaza with food carts and outside vendor spaces, accessible pathways, bike racks, benches, drinking fountains, energy-efficient lighting and new restrooms.
“It’s really an investment in an area that sees a lot of reinvestment,” Proudfoot says. “It can be transformative for this area.”
The construction was postponed several times, and the skate park portion and park renovation combined cost is much higher than expected: $2.5 million, with the city covering $2.2 million.
The high cost drew criticism in light of Eugene’s budget woes, but the parks system development budget can only be spent on renovation or construction of new parks, Proudfoot says. The skate park, the seventh in the area, represents $600,000 of the final cost. More than $150,000 was raised by private donations through nonprofits in addition to a $173,000 grant from the state.
The skate park was designed by Dreamland Skateparks, a world-renowned skate design and build firm. Brown explains that this skate park will become a reference for skaters in the country and hopes to attract people from outside the state. Proudfoot doesn’t exclude the possibility of Eugene hosting its first big skate competition in the upcoming years.