The skatepark's voted-for "Crop Circle" design
The hardest trick in skateboarding isn't a darkside grind or even a 360 hardflip — it's building the actual skatepark. After negotiating with local skaters for more than five years, Portland appears no closer to crafting a park that will make them happy. Which is kind of a problem, since the park is finally set to break ground sometime this fall — a delay of yet more months for a park some had hoped would open in May.
Just when we thought it couldn't get worse (and when we hoped it might even get a little better), the poor excuse for communication between Portland officials and the city's skating community has hit a crescendo. The rumblings began in 2008, when Portland told skaters they could choose the design of the long-overdue skatepark. And choose they did, voting for the "Crop Circle" design out of a list of three budget-approved skatepark designs in a Portland Phoenix online poll. The story should end here, with Portland building the park it promised.
But no. When the building contract was awarded to Missouri-based skatepark designers Hardcore Skateparks Inc., Portland's Skatepark Committee told the company that it could send in additional designs — oddly making the voting process absolutely pointless. Thanks to that brief moment of democratic hubris, skaters are now getting a different park than they agreed on. "It doesn't sound like everyone's excited about it," admits Eli Cayer, a Skatepark Committee member.
Hardcore Skateparks Inc.'s "M" design
While voters had initially seemed content with the "Crop Circle" design, it was no longer good enough when Hardcore presented its idea, called the "M" design, as a possible option. Even though the city was never seriously considering it as an alternative, skaters began to lobby for its more varied terrain obstacles. According to Mark Leone, Hardcore's vice-president of design, the "M" design was created as an outside-chance suggestion. "It was never really an option," Leone says.
As the Skatepark Committee flirted with the "M" design, Leone spoke with local skaters to see what they liked best about both designs. He reports hearing that people liked some aspects of the "Crop Circle," but also wanted "M" design features such as grindrails and ledges.
MASH-UP The skatepark's final design
But then money became an issue. The $250,000 the city was planning to spend on the park couldn't cover both the size of the full "Crop Circle" design and the stuff added in from the "M" design. The "solution" was to keep the extra features but shrink the size of the park by 25 percent — from between 12,000 and 14,000 square feet down to 9000 to 10,000 square feet. What resulted is the bizarrely unsatisfying hybrid that's slated for construction at Dougherty Field.
Enter social networking. More than 1000 people have joined the Facebook page for "The skateboard community wants the 'M' design back!" Facebook page. Cayer chalks that up to scarce skater participation in the early design phase: "Don't start bitching at 11:59," he says.
But, of course, if the Skatepark Committee hadn't left the door open to other designs, then the "M" design wouldn't have muddied the waters either as a full replacement design or something with elements to incorporate, to the detriment of the previous design.