Skateparks are becoming a growing trend across the country as adrenaline sports continue to gain in popularity with sporting events like the X-Games and others becoming more mainstream.

In a community that boasts a vibrant and booming riverfront, mountain biking trails, golf courses, soccer and softball complexes and other outdoor activities, soon you can add skatepark to that list. A project that has been in the making since 2012 is about to culminate with a grand opening later this year.

“I believe it was time to give this user group a home, as we have done with youth football, baseball and soccer,” said Amanda Rogers, parks and recreation manager for the Owensboro Parks Department. “Thinking about serving this population and creating this group a home and primary location to practice and enjoy their sport is exciting!”

The new park isn’t your typical grass and tree-filled space, but instead is a land of concrete, filled with hills, ramps and railings for the city’s skateboarding, BMX biking and inline skating community to rule. The $800,000.00 skatepark is located on the corner of Parrish and Bluff Avenue in Chautauqua Park, and according to Rogers, the city intends to open it in June. A lot has happened to bring Owensboro to this point. The idea of building a skatepark didn’t begin with the first truckload of concrete.

After it was determined that the OZONE wooden ramp being used by the skating community in Owensboro was not salvageable, some citizens requested that a new park be built. Rewind to April 26, 2012, when Mayor Ron Payne held a meeting at the Sportscenter. The agenda for that meeting included gauging community interest and vetting the idea of a skatepark in Owensboro. Shortly after the meeting, the City Commission decided there was enough interest and support for the project to provide the necessary funding. The Owensboro Skatepark was born.

As with any project, though, the skatepark was met with dissatisfaction by some, especially community members who felt Owensboro’s money could be better spent someplace else.

“As with any capital spending project, elected officials are faced with tough decisions daily; as there is no shortage of great ideas and worthy projects to pursue,” said Rogers. “Whether it is a park project, sidewalk, street or other, there is always some level of discussion and debate on priority.”

Then there’s the question of insurance and what happens if someone is hurt. Rogers says the city’s insurance will cover the park, and city leaders consulted their insurance provider to get “direction and input about design and operations” of the park. In fact, according to Skatepark Association International, skateboarding is safer than football, basketball or baseball when you look at a total number of injuries versus total participants. According to the site skateboarding and inline skating injuries are more likely to occur on uneven surfaces such as poorly paved streets or crumbing sidewalks. Skateparks provide smooth surfaces to ride which creates a safer environment.

Creating a skatepark for citizens to enjoy is not a new concept for Kentucky, and our city joins the ranks of Louisville, Berea, Bowling Green and others to offer this amenity for residents and visitors. In fact, skateparks are becoming a growing trend across the country as adrenaline sports continue to gain in popularity with sporting events like the X-Games and others becoming more mainstream.

Designed by Spohn Ranch, construction began in October 2013. The Los Angeles-based company has created parks all over the country, and even constructed courses for the Mountain Dew Tour and Red Bull. Now the company was challenged with creating a park that would meet the needs of our community. Throughout the entire process, Rogers says the skating community has helped shape the look and design of the park. “We wanted the body of users to help us determine what elements and style would best suit our community,” she said. “How the park layout and elements should be prioritized and how the park should flow.”

She also says adding this amenity really contributes to Owensboro’s curb appeal because a skatepark wasn’t something the city had in its park system. Expanding the parks to help find a home for the BMX bikers, skateboarders and inline skaters adds to the value and flexibility of the parks system, according to Rogers.

“Skateparks are no longer viewed as trends in a parks system,” she stated. “They’re no longer viewed as a passing fad for recreation, but have proven themselves to be a part of the recreational fabric of our world.”

Owensboro sees quite an economic impact from sports and recreation tourism – an impact to the tune of approximately eight million dollars ($8,000,000.00) a year from direct and non-direct revenue, according to Rogers. And the parks department plays a major role in that sector. Tournaments and festivals and other outdoor activities bring visitors to town who stay in Owensboro hotels and eat at Owensboro restaurants. Those impacts have not gone unnoticed by elected officials.

In addition to potentially bringing in out-of-town visitors, it will provide a place for kids to go and practice a sport they’re passionate about. Providing a skatepark could mean fewer kids skateboarding on private property or on busy public streets. Will it mean you’ll never see another skateboard outside the new skatepark? Probably not, but Rogers hopes it provides a safe place.

“Remember for many, skateboarding is a hobby, sport and a mode of transportation,” Rogers said. “I do not think it will create a community where no one on a skateboard is ever seen on a public street or on private property. I do think there will be a significant shift.”

There are still a few things to finish up with the skatepark, such as sidewalks and landscaping, but a grand opening for the new park is being planned and could be held as early as mid-June. Hours of operations and other rules and regulations are currently being developed and will be available as the park gets closer to its grand opening.