Aaron Spohn: Aaron Spohn’s company, Spohn Ranch, has built several skate facilities across the US and abroad. Here are some things he tells on how to build a skate park.
Work With Local Authorities
Because each municipality will have its own rules and regulations, it’s important to work closely with local authorities. Classification can be a grey area (for example, is a skate park a playground or an amusement park?), but by working with officials you can make it black and white and stay out of the red.
Indoor or Outdoor?
Indoor is more expensive, but operation is more predictable. If building outside, the first consideration should be the weather, which affects not only the ability to do business, but also impacts the costs of materials and maintenance.
Pros and Cons of Various Ramp Materials
Wood – Relatively low initial cost but requires high maintenance. Marine plywood is best but expensive; masonite or hardboard are in most cases more than adequate. Wood is good for indoors and dry climates. Splinters and gouging are drawbacks.
Steel – Low maintenance, but gets hot and could have dangerously sharp edges.
Concrete – Low maintenance, less likelihood of dilapidation or injury.
Fasteners – Long screws are good, staples and nails are bad because they tend to come up and snag unwary skaters.
In general, build it right the first time with materials that require less maintenance; these are safer and pay for themselves in the long run.
Fire Planning – Even an all concrete indoor park will need a sprinkler system. Again, work with local authorities to determine what precautions are necessary in determining how to build a skate park.
Guards for Flyaway Boards – Skates will stay on a skater’s feet, but bikes and skateboards will get away from fallen riders. Precautions should be taken to keep runaway equipment in isolated areas.
Emergency Egress – Emergency access to all areas, even the bottoms of concrete bowls, should be provided to facilitate extrication of injured participants.
Handicap Access – In keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act, all restrooms and viewing areas must be fully accessible.
Work with Kids and Hardcore Skaters – If you build it, they will come—once. But if it’s dull, they won’t come back. Work with the skaters in your community to design a course that will be challenging yet safe. In Santa Clara, kids were given clay to play with and shape into a skate park model. The final design incorporated many of their suggestions; today the park enjoys a steady flow of skaters.
No Cross Patterns – Set up ramp arrays so that runs are roughly parallel. While cross patterns might maximize available space, they are an invitation to disaster.
Segregation – Set up different areas for different levels of skaters. Less embarrassment, less injuries.
Building – High ceiling, no poles, smooth but “sticky” surface.