|This section of the site is intended to help people like you get a skatepark built in your neighborhood. Thanks to Seattle’s recent Citywide Skatepark Planning process, the city has found a site for a skatepark in almost every neighborhood. Now each community in Seattle has an opportunity to get the benefit of a local skatepark.
While the Seattle Skatepark Plan found places for skate parks across the city, it did not guarantee funding to build a park in each of those locations. Thus, is up to you to make sure that a well designed, well built, and most importantly – fun place for skateboarders actually gets built in your neighborhood.
This guide is designed to help you do just that. We have put together this web site to guide you through each step that you will need to take in order to make your dream skate park a reality. We have also put together contact information for the kinds of people that you can look to for help, and the organizations that you will want to work with as you move closer to the kind of park that you will be proud to have in your neighborhood. In short, we have lined up the ingredients and the steps that you will need to take in combining those ingredients in order to bake up the right skate park for your neighborhood.
This guide is the product of literally thousands of hours of experience in getting skateparks built in Seattle, the Puget Sound region, and beyond. Best of all, this is a process that works. As we have seen with successful projects in Seattle and elsewhere, communities can build fun, safe and low maintenance skate facilities that provide kids with a healthy social and recreational environment, enhance the character of a neighborhood, and integrate with a variety of neighbors and uses.
Building a skatepark is not a project to be undertaken lightly, but with some hard work and the help of some like-minded friends and neighbors it does happen. We hope that this guide is helpful.
Advocacy and Organizing
Identify the main stakeholders in your skatepark
A skatepark is valuable to many people. Different kinds of people will feel some level of “ownership” over the skatepark and all of them will have important input on the creation or design of the skatepark. These people are called stakeholders:
Now that you have a general idea of who the skateholders are, you need to go out and build a support network of contacts in these groups.
Build your support network
Effective fundraising will require a strong support network, and the more help you have, the more successful you’ll be. The fundraising process is also a great opportunity to network within your community. Many people in your community won’t even know that a skatepark has been planned for their neighborhood, and getting the word out is a key part of building your support network.
To build your support network, first create a sign-up sheet that says something like “Friends of the (your location here) Skatepark” at the top and a column for a name, address, email, and phone number below that heading. Under the heading but above the columns, write a simple statement like “We the undersigned support the (your location here) skatepark as a vibrant and positive addition to our community.”
Go out and stand in the location that’s been designated for the skatepark and look around you. Spend some time there and see who walks by. Look for people who already use the area and ask them if they are aware of the future skatepark. As you speak with people ask them to sign your petition of support and put down whatever contact info they feel comfortable giving you. This list is the beginning of your support network! Anytime in the future that you need to get the word out for a fundraiser or skatepark awareness event, your support network will be super easy to contact.
Drawing on these experiences in your local community, develop a purpose and vision for your skatepark that describes as many details as possible about it, your plans for designing and building it, who will help with the effort, and their contact information. See the River City Skatepark Description and Mission Statement for more ideas about how to get started. Over time, as your support network grows, continue to revise and update this document with information about the skatepark’s steering committee, the geographic area that it will serve, accomplishments to date, and a workplan/timeline for final completion. The River City Skatepark Testimonial provides another excellent example of a detailed document like this. Handy documents like these will also provide a solid foundation for grantwriting and fundraising later in the skatepark project’s lifecycle.
You can also build your support network by having small informal events at the future skatepark location, like a “skate-in.” This lets folks know that people are organizing to get a skatepark built, and gives them a chance to volunteer. To spread the word post flyers at any natural meeting places around the neighborhood – like grocery stores, community centers, schools etc. The goal with these events is to hang out with members of the community to share info about who you are, what you are doing, where the park is going, when it is happening, and why skateparks are important. When you throw an informal event, it is great to do something to attract families, like having a lemonade stand, bake sale, kid skate day, or the like. Families are a powerful group to have in a support network, mostly because they can do a lot of organizing for you via word of mouth as they interact with a ton of other families, teachers and other community members.
The next step for building your support network is finding out which local businesses will support the skatepark. Many businesses will be obvious supporters because they provide services or sell products that skaters will use or buy, but they may need you to make the connection between their business and the skatepark for them. Share some of the information you’ve learned during your advocacy effort to help them understand why their business will benefit from a skatepark being built in the neighborhood. Remember, these are businesses, and the financial bottom line is important.
Here are some key points to make with businesses when you are building your support network:
Start with local grocery stores, restaurants, CD shops, and of course the skate shop! One you cover the obvious ones, start talking to the others. You’ll be surprised who supports the skatepark. Substantial skatepark support has come from businesses like copy shops, barbers, tattoo shops, florists, and real estate agencies. Contact the local chamber of commerce and ask to be a guest speaker at the next meeting to talk about the skatepark.
Remember that this is an opportunity to educate some very important members of the community about skateparks. Make sure to take a young skater with you if you can, and be nice even if they don’t support skateparks. Not everyone gets it right away. Thank them for their time regardless of whether or not they sign your petition, and be mindful not to re-enforce any negative stereotypes they may have about skaters.
As you build your business support network, make sure to show other businesses who has already pledged support. Your list of supporting businesses is going to be a very powerful tool for gaining support from officials, neighbors, and especially other businesses!
Write to Elected Officials
Letters of endorsement from elected officials go a long way toward showing that you have support for your planned skatepark. First, make a list of City Council Members, County Council Members and the Mayor. Next, call their offices and speak with a staff person. Ask the staff person what the best way is to request a letter of support – e.g., email or letter sent via U.S. mail. Whatever method you choose, be aware that you may not hear back after your first request. Be prepared to follow up with the staff person.
Notes on Networking
Whenever you can, wherever you are, talk to people about the efforts to organize your skatepark. The more people you talk to, the more contacts you get. And if someone mentions knowing someone else who may want to be involved have the person you are talking to make the call and contact the potential volunteer. Cold calls are hard and don’t get as good results. But if you have somebody’s friend or acquaintance call them, then you don’t have to do as much work. People will involved via friends easier than via some one they don’t know.
Find the Skatepark Locations in Your Neighborhood
The Seattle Skatepark Master Plan was designed to let people like you build neighborhood skateparks without having to go through all the difficulty and process of finding a site for it. Instead, the Master Plan found locations throughout Seattle where Skateparks have the best chance to work for skateboarders and the surrounding community.
That said, conditions in the City change. If you are aware of a location that would be great for a skatepark, and it is not on the plan, you may not be out of luck. Getting something built on a site that is not on the plan is a lot more work. However, if you are committed to a location off the plan, we recommend starting by contacting Seattle Parks and Recreation.
If there are multiple skatepark sites in your neighborhood, you may want to choose the one you want to work with, based on the size of the park you want to build, as discussed below.
Determine the maximum size of park your site will support, and decide how big a park you want to build
Each site on the Master Plan lists the best size for a skatepark in that location. The Plan provides for the following sizes and types of skateparks:
While it is tempting to build the biggest possible skatepark, keep in mind that this means raising a lot more money. At the same time, the number of sites for skateparks in Seattle is limited. So, you don’t want to build something small on a site that can fit a large skatepark. What this means is that you should be realistic about whether you can take on the full size of skatepark that the Master Plan allows in your site.
When you decide to take on a skatepark project, stick with it until you can build the type of skatepark that the site will support. You don’t get a second chance so do it right the first time!
Develop information and fact sheets
A simple 81/2 x 11″ sheet that lays out what you are trying to do can be very helpful. It can explain your project to neighbors and people who could potentially help you get your park built.
Your fact sheet should include:
Develop a petition in support of your skatepark
A successful petition drive can go a long way in showing support for your project. This will be very helpful for both fundraising, and if there is any opposition to your project.
Make sure your petition includes:
Develop a mailing list
By this time, your organizing work and petitioning should provide you with a great list of potential skatepark supporters. Compile all the available e-mails and mailing addresses into a big mailing list. The people on your mailing list should be notified when there are public hearings on your project, events in support of your project, or when you need additional volunteers and funds. They are your community.
Contact and work with Seattle Parks and Recreation, and media
You now need to start talking with Seattle Parks and Recreation. They will be the people who ultimately handle the process of hiring the designer and builder of your skatepark, and they will be the ones to maintain it. You need to let them know about your project, where you are building it, and how far along you are. Parks, in return, can tell you if there are any other plans for the site you are looking at, and if anybody else is in the process of trying to get a skatepark built there, or nearby. Seattle Parks and Recreation will effectively be your partner on your project, so get them on-board early. You can e-mail the Parks staffer in charge of your site here.
Finally, you should start letting local media know what is going on with your park. Your information sheet can serve as a good “press release” to send to various media organizations. We recommend with starting with your neighborhood newspapers.
One way of getting some press is to send a “letter to the editor” to the newspapers in support of your project. An example from Skaters for Skateparks is available here.
The Seattle Skate Park Master Plan saves a lot of your work by providing you with a location for your skatepark, but the most important part of the process – fundraising – is still up to you. Nothing gets built without financial resources to pay for design, labor, materials, and all the other things that go into building a skatepark.
There are many ways to raise money for your skatepark. This page outlines the steps that have worked for many skatepark advocates and supporters that have come before you. However, your ability to succeed will rely heavily on your creativity. Short of breaking the law, there really is no hard and fast rule for fundraising. Read through these steps and let them inspire you to create new methods that work best for your special skatepark. Let’s get started!
Determine the budget for your skatepark
Before you can start building funding support for your skatepark, you need to know how much money will be needed to build it. You don’t need exact numbers, a solid estimate will do. Here is a simple formula for calculating a basic budget based on the size of skatepark planned for your location:
Providing tax-deductibility for donations
An organization that is trying to raise money from individuals and organizations can offer them an incentive to contribute by making donations are tax-deductible. Those donations are only tax-deductible if the organization has IRS 501(c)(3) status or operates under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor with 501(c)(3) status.
Getting 501(c)(3) status from the IRS is a generally a difficult and lengthy process. Operating under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, on the other hand, is not.
Finding a fiscal sponsor
In order to raise money, you need someone with non-profit status who can keep track of the contributions and make sure that you don’t have to pay taxes on the money you raise. This is called a fiscal sponsor. There are a few non-profit organizations (NPO’s) who focus on public projects that encourage healthy physical activity, community development, and public park projects. They will ask for a small percentage in exchange for keeping track of your money and sheltering it in a safe account for your use later.
These entities can be tricky to find, but here is a list of a few prominent NPO’s in Seattle. If they can’t help you, chances are they will be able to refer you to someone who can.
Set your fundraising goals
The first thing that popped into your mind when you did the budget estimate exercise, is “Wow! That’s a lot of money!”. Don’t worry, it won’t be up to you to raise all of it. But what is very true is that the more you raise, the more people will want to contribute because the project starts to seem more “real” and successful to them.
It’s really important to set small and attainable goals for yourself when fundraising for your skatepark. Not only will this help you to prioritize your efforts, but it will also make it easier to delegate some goals to others who have special interest or talents in those areas. Some grants only apply to certain types of projects, for instance, there are “Small and Simple” grants that are specifically designated for coming up with an initial design. There are several phases of a skatepark creation process that you can base your goal structure off of, but feel free to create as many goals as you want.
The three basic phases of a skatepark creation process that will need funding are:
Site designation and evaluation (done!)
Thanks to some industrious skateboarders and citizens, a very talented Architectural Planning firm, the 2006 Seattle City Council, and the Parks Department, this phase has been done for you. In 2006 the City Council spent over $80,000 on public meetings and a design process that mapped out locations for skateparks throughout the city. Count yourself lucky as of right now only one other city in the United States has done this!
It’s difficult to raise funds for something that hasn’t been designed yet, which is where the conceptual design comes in handy. When people see your conceptual design they will be much more compelled to contribute time or money to it. A skatepark usually goes through two design phases. The first phase is a conceptual design phase where an artist will create a rendition of the park that shows it in the space it will occupy and tries to capture the general essence of a potential design.
It’s very possible that this design could be donated or created by someone without much expertise in skatepark design, but remember that this document will be what you use to get people interested. You need the best looking and most professional conceptual design you can get!
This phase is where you take your conceptual design and turn it into something that can actually be built. This phase requires a professional skatepark designer and some public process, so it can often cost up to 35% of the overall skatepark construction budget. If everything goes smoothly, you should emerge from this phase with a final design document that shows the park in its exact location, drawn to scale with an accurate topography, and a really close estimate on construction costs. Most designers can also produce construction documents during this phase, which the builder will need in order to create the park as designed.
Because of the expense of the design some of the grants listed above are not available for this phase, but some are. It all depends on the size of your park. You may need to pay for this phase using funds designated for the overall park budget.
This is the bulk of your skatepark’s budget, and will be where most of your goal setting and work will be needed. One great way to set goals within the construction phase is to find ways to sell underwriting for different aspects of the skatepark to different groups who you think will contribute. Underwriting means that the group pays for the feature and in exchange they receive acknowledgement, usually in the form of a plaque or sign on that feature.
There are literally no limits to how many funding opportunities you can create using this method, but here are some ideas:
Larger features such as bathrooms are great for bigger corporate donors. Ask a shoe company to sponsor the bathrooms, or a software giant to pitch in for some bleachers!
There are some small development grants that exist solely for the purpose of people like yourself who have a dream and need a design to help get more support and funding.
Most of the money that you will need will come from grants. Grant applications are time-consuming, but if done correctly will get you the money that you need. If possible, begin the grant application 2 to 6 months before it is due – this will give you the time to line up all of the information that you need to complete it correctly. Ask someone from the grant organization to review your application before you submit it. Be sure to circulate a draft to members of your organization 1 to 2 weeks before it is due – extra pairs of eyes can often spot errors in the budget!
Fundraising events can be a lot of fun but are also a lot of work and require a team of people to execute. All of these general fundraising methods also serve another very important purpose: they promote your effort, build community, and help recruit supporters and volunteers. In addition, if you need to have volunteer hours for Department of Neighborhood Matching Grants (Small & Simple or Large Projects Fund), this is a great opportunity to get volunteer hours. Getting the word out increases your support network, so make sure to always have your petition ready at events and at places of business that support the skatepark.
Music performances: Effective skatepark fundraisers have been held at music clubs with bands donating all of the proceeds to the skatepark effort. Make sure to have both all ages and 21+ events.
Movies: Another great way to raise money is to have a skate video premiere or an exhibition of skate movies made by local skaters. This can even be done outside at the new skatepark location using a sheet and a borrowed projector, or at a public library.
Raffles: At every event you should have a raffle for prizes that will be donated by skate shops and manufacturers. Most manufacturers will be happy to send you a box of prizes to give away because it’s good publicity for them to be involved with your effort. This is also a good time to refer to your business support network and ask each of them for a gift certificate to raffle away.
T-shirts: Who doesn’t need another T-shirt right? T-shirts are cheap to produce and usually have a high profit margin. You can place these in local shops and sell them at events or on a website created for your skatepark effort.
Designing Your Skatepark
Research skatepark designs constructed in other areas and skatepark visits
This can be one of the most fun parts of your project, where you actually put pen to paper to get the skatepark elements that you and your friends, and the skateboarding community as a whole, would like to skate. Just as with skateboarding down the street where almost any object can be skated, there are an uncountable number of skate features that can be included in your dream skatepark. But these features need to be constructable and work together to create a skatepark with flow and terrain that can be enjoyed by skaters of all different styles and age groups. Fortunately for you, there are now numerous skateparks that are popping up all over the country and research of these skatepark designs, specifically the skateparks you have skated and understand what elements work and don’t work, will give you ideas on how to start designing your skatepark.
Perhaps one of the best ways to start thinking about skateable terrain you would like to include in your skatepark is to visit nearby skateparks with the group of people who have been working on your skatepark together. Remember that both skaters and non-skaters will need to provide buy-in on any design and including the non-skaters on site visits will be very valuable to obtaining this buy-in. Make sure to bring a camera and skateboards for everybody, even the non-skaters so they have a chance to roll around and feel the concrete (it may be their first and last time!). Take notes and photos of the things you like and don’t like at each skatepark you visit. Also make notes about concerns that the non-skaters have at each park as these concerns may also be raised by community members and you will need to be able to explain why this should or should not be a concern. Think not just about individual features, but how they work together, and how they would translate to the site that you have to work with.
Often the best design information can be gathered by the locals that skate a park often. While you are at each skatepark, ask these locals what they like and do not like about their skatepark and any ideas they have for making that park better. If there aren’t any skaters at a park at a time you would expect them to be there (a sunny weekend or summer day) that may be a sign of problems with the park itself. If there are parks that you see that seem well designed or built, find out who did that work.
While it is tough to tell how well a skatepark works without skating it, searching the Internet for popular skateparks can give you a lot of information about different elements that other skateparks are using, and different approaches to designing skateparks in sites shaped like yours. A good starting point will be the websites for leading skatepark designers and builders, because they tend to provide photos of completed projects.
Consider What Terrain is Already Available
Although you and your friends may be strictly street or vert skaters, other stakeholders in the design process will likely require a mixture of street and vert features. One guideline to consider is the SPAC’s recommendation that all skateparks include at least some street features and some vert features. The SPAC also recommends that, when taken together, all of Seattle’s skateparks provide approximately 60% street features and 40% vert features. Research skateparks that are currently being designed or already constructed in your local area and attempt to design your park with new features to avoid duplication. Arrange these features in new ways so your park has a fresh design and skatepark flow.
Conduct outreach to determine what type of design is best for your skatepark user group
Your skatepark is going to need to serve your entire neighborhood and the skateboarding community in general. Seek input from local skaters (both within and outside of your friend group) as to what they would like to see in the skatepark. Get this input as early in the design process as possible. This will help to avoid unnecessary delays in getting your skatepark built due to a delayed design process and costly redesign work. It is just as important to get input on design elements from non-skaters in the community. On numerous skateparks that have been constructed throughout the Seattle region, neighborhood opponents to skateparks have time and time again delayed skatepark construction since they felt their input was not adequately addressed during the design process. Remember, a skateparks success is measured by all potential user and non-user groups, not just the skaters that are involved in the creation of the skatepark.
Finally, try to accommodate for the kinds of skaters that you may not have talked with. Often, this means making sure the design has something for people who are just beginning to skate. The SPAC recommends that every Seattle skatepark should contain a mix of terrain that is accessible, enjoyable, and appropriate to a range of skaters, from beginner to advanced. Incorporating elements for younger skaters will significantly increase support from neighborhood parents. This support will help to sway opponents against construction of your skatepark.
Also, Skaters for Public Skateparks have created a number of useful tips for designing skateparks, building street plazas, and building transition/vert skateparks. These tips have been compiled from years of skatepark construction throughout the country.
Research skatepark design and construction firms
Your visits to Seattle area skateparks and online research into potential design features have probably acquainted you with the work of various skatepark design and construction firms. Keep in mind, that there are three kinds of skatepark companies: designers, builders, and design/build firms. The pros and cons of separating out design and build are discussed on the Skaters for Public Skateparks (SPS) web site:
Traditional park elements are created first by a design firm that creates the plans for the structure then subcontracts an appropriate construction firm to build it. The design is put out for bid then the winning design firm puts the construction of the project out for bid. This traditional model may be called “design-bid-construction.”Design-build is a bit different. Hiring a design-build firm means contracting a single entity to conduct both the design and construction responsibilities for a particular project.There are benefits to both methods:The benefit of design-build is that the designer has the most amount of control over the construction and can ensure that what is sold is delivered. Design-build often favors innovation in that there is no seam between the two facets of creation.The benefit of design-bid-construction is that the traditional process is more aligned with bureaucratic systems and, as a result, cities are sometimes reluctant to work outside of the “tried and true.”
Once you have narrowed down the list of skatepark companies that you would like to see build your skatepark, (Online Research section above provides contacts for several prominent skatepark designers), contact cities and organizations that have hired them before. Any good skatepark company should either have a list of contacts for parks they have built or can provide you a list upon request. Do not hesitate to ask a skatepark company’s prior customers what they liked and did not like about dealing with them. This additional information (e.g., cost over runs, lack of construction experience, relationships with stakeholder groups, etc.) should help narrow down potential skatepark designers that should be included in the bid-proposal process.
You can also post questions about people’s experiences with individual skatepark companies on the SPS forum for your region. This is a great resource for information from other people who have done what you are doing, namely getting skateparks built.
Provide Seattle Parks Department with recommendations for skatepark design firms that should be included in the bid process
The Seattle Parks Department will be handling the bidding process for hiring the designer and builder of your skatepark. You can use the knowledge and experience that you have gained to help them make a great skatepark. Share your list of preferred skatepark designers with Parks and explain why they would be appropriate for your park. You can also contact the designers you are interested in and inform them of the bid process and schedule and personally ask them to bid on your project. This outreach will help to ensure that all potential skatepark designers with the skills to make you the best park have a chance to compete for the design work.
Following selection of the design firm, be a part of the design review process and provide input where necessary
You are now the number one expert on your skatepark site, its users, the surrounding community, and the type of skatepark that needs to be built. Once the city is involved in moving the project forward, your expertise is needed more than ever! There will be a number of opportunities to review proposed designs, and to make sure that your neighborhood gets the skatepark it needs.
Find out who the Project Manager for your skatepark will be and introduce yourself. Offer to help however you can. You are an invaluable resource for the Project Manager, and she or he should be eager to have you involved.
Stay involved during the skatepark construction and try to facilitate review of the concrete construction
After a final design is approved, bids will go out to hire a company to actually build the skatepark (unless a design/build firm was hired the first time around – see SPS discussion above).
Just like skatepark designers, not all skatepark builders are the same. A fantastic design can be ruined by poor construction. Once again, you need to provide Parks with recommendations for builders that have done good work before.
Once construction has started, continue to stay involved. Frequently go over to the site to help make sure that the construction company is doing a good job, and that things are being built properly. Remember, the number one safeguard against mistakes being made (after hiring a good builder) is keeping an eye on the construction process. Your early input on construction issues can only help to make your skatepark as good as possible. Many skatepark builders may change or tweak designs once they are actually laid-out on the ground. This is a good thing, as an experienced builder will be able to catch problems with a design that are not apparent on paper, but that would reduce the usability and fun of the actual park.