Building a competition-style, all-concrete skateboarding facility in central Sioux Falls will bring the recreational activity into the mainstream and provide an expressive outlet for people of all ages.
That's the hope, anyway, for the Sioux Falls Skatepark Association, which is teaming up with the city of Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce to bring a state-of-the-art skatepark to Nelson Park.
SFSA co-founder Walter Portz told City Councilors Tuesday during their first public briefing on the proposed skatepark that while skateboarding used to be seen as a fringe activity, its low-barrier to entry makes it an ideal activity for a community to provide in low-income neighborhoods.
And the sense of community it can provide can aid in cultivating tomorrow's leaders, he said referring to the members of SFSA, many of who grew up skating but are now active in the Sioux Falls business community.
"We were kind of ruffians … and we were kind of on the outside of things," he said. "Most of us have matured and figured out how to blend in and work congruently with all the other community members."
That message hit close to home for Councilor Rick Kiley. His son Jason spent his teen years skating with Portz, and though they were good kids, not having a dedicated area to ride their skateboards occasionally caused some problems.
"Good kids, but they were seen as being kind of on the fringe because they were the so-called skateboarders," Kiley said. "In fact, I can remember having a fine to pay for Jason because he was skateboarding downtown. So here we are kind of criminalizing good kids for doing an activity that they just didn't have a place to do it."
Since that time, the city created two skateboarding parks, but not professional grade. The two existing slabs — which have a few obstacles placed on top of them, rather than built in — are at Kuehn Park and Nelson Park.
SFSA's proposal would replace the skatepark at Nelson Park with a professional grade facility. World-renowned skatepark designer
The plan has the endorsement of the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department, which signed on to the project when SFSA agreed to raise the necessary $1.6 million worth of construction costs.
And late last year, the Chamber selected the project as a part of its community appeals program, which helps raise funds for nonprofit organizations on a biannual basis. That fundraising effort has a goal to raise $1.35 million between November 2021 and March 2022.
In the meantime, Portz said his organization will continue to raise funds on its own to bridge the gap. If successful, construction could begin in late 2022, he said.
And if it happens, it will be a dream come true, Kiley said.
"They had dreams at that time of doing a skatepark at that time, maybe not as grand as this one," he said