Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Dang Few Thoughts On The Springfield Skatepark

Speaking of buying buildings, the Park Board ought to just buy the skatepark building. As I understand it, the Skateboard Association owns the building, the school district owns the land under the building and part of the parking lot, and the city/Park Board owns the land under the outdoor area of the park. There should be an independent appraisal of the value of the building and improvements, the Park Board should buy the building from the Skatepark Association. The Skatepark Association would then be free to go and purchase some land and build a new one.

We know the Park Board has the money to do this; they just spent a million dollars on a horse farm with a nice riding arena, close to Valley Water Mill. The park sales tax generates a tremendous amount of money for the Park Board just as the conservation tax generates a lot of money for the conservation commission. The Park Board could afford to buy the skatepark from the Skatepark Association if that was what they wanted to do.

But they probably won't do that.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skate park, the first thing I would do is I would want the school district to give me the land under the building because I am not convinced that the school board wouldn’t side with the Skate park Association and agree that I am being heavy-handed in this matter. I know that the school district owns the land on which the building, parking lot and part of the outdoor facility sit. I would strongly encourage and use all the persuasive powers I could gather to encourage the school district to swap this land with land I own at Fassnight Park that the district uses for Parkview.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would try to portray that the current skatepark management and employees run it as their own private fiefdom and do not encourage or welcome non-skaters to the facilities.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark I would find every instance where something uncomplimentary was written about the skatepark, be it a letter to the editor, a blog posting or a news report. I would seek out people who have had bad experiences with the skatepark and encourage them, albeit in a surreptitious manner, to come forward and voice their grievances. And I would say, "See, it's not just me, other people think this same way."

If I were the Park Board and wanted to take over the skatepark, I would have the city tell the police department to find every instance where they went on a call involving skateboarders skating on private parking lots, sidewalks, sewers and concrete drainage ditches so I could say that the park management isn't meeting the needs of these skaters, because if it was meeting their needs, they would be skating at the skatepark and not on private parking lots, sidewalks, sewers and concrete drainage ditches. (Has anyone else noticed the rocks embedded in the concrete drainage ditch at Fort and Broadmoor?)

If I were the Park Board and wanted to take over the skatepark, I would reference and probably show that videotape Life Of Jason mentions to illustrate how horrible the management was for letting these kids make such a horrible tape such as this. I would say things like, “Look, they are cussing, using foul language, look at how inappropriate their behavior is, do we want our children to act like this? And not only that, they are possibly doing things that are illegal! And maybe even smoking cigarettes”. Even if I knew that the videotape was an 'underground' tape and the skatepark management did not sanction or approve it and that the makers of the tape were probably called out on the carpet and chewed out by both the Skatepark Association and the Park Board.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would have the city change the terms of the lease. Instead of a five year lease (which would allow the skatepark to develop long range goals, plan future improvements and perhaps even fundraising), I would change the terms to a one year lease.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would insert a provision in the new lease where I could put an employee in there who would report directly to me. Get this guy in there, have him report back to me, give him a year to learn the business, (because obviously the skatepark management is doing something right, compared to, say, the ice skating rink) and next year when the lease is up, kick out the current management for, say, not having positive thoughts.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would put in the new lease that the non-profit Skatepark Association should immediately turn over their ownership of the building and assets to me. I would also insert a provision in the new lease that would allow me to revoke and cancel the lease if I give the Skatepark Association five days written notice. I would want the causes for revoking the lease to be so broad that if a skatepark employee did not act or speak positively, I could revoke their lease. I would also instruct that employee I had in there to document every time someone or some activity didn't "reflect positively" or had a "doubtful reputation" (actual reasons in new lease for revokation) and get such documentation back to me ASAP.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would take the provision out of the original lease where the city agrees to pay the difference in premiums between 1 million and 2 million dollars in liability coverage. I would want the skatepark to sign a new lease where the city not only makes the skatepark increase the coverage limits but also quits paying the skatepark anything towards the premium cost.

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark, I would make the terms of the new lease so objectionable that I knew the Skatepark Association wouldn't sign it and I could say something like, "The skatepark didn't want to renew the lease the way it had to be done so I had to take it over." Or, "The skatepark wasn't cooperating so I had to take it over."

If I were the Park Board and I wanted to take over the skatepark I would never forget that I have deeper pockets than the Skatepark Association.

But I'm not the Park Board; I am just a grandfather who has two grandsons who play basketball, baseball and skateboard.

Because I am retired, I am fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandchildren. And I enjoy every minute of it. This afternoon, after I picked them up from school (yes, I pick them up in the little yellow bus), I asked if they wanted to go to the skatepark. The oldest one said, "Sure".

I took him down there and he paid the five dollars to get in. He went outside and started skating. I watched through the doorway. After a while, I got tired of standing and went out to my truck in the parking lot, turned on the heater, got warm and watched him skate. He was having a good time. As I was watching him skate up and down the ramps and do 'pivots' and 'reverts', I realized that I derive absolutely no enjoyment whatsoever from skateboarding. If it wasn’t for the enjoyment I got from watching my grandson having a good time, I probably wouldn’t even have set foot in the place.

It was cold, there were no comfortable places to sit outside and watch skaters, the music was too loud, I didn't like the decor. Did I mention I was cold and there were too many kids out there skating who were not wearing coats, the graffiti was too hard to read and my feet hurt?

But, the skate park wasn't built for me, a 58 year old grandfather; it was built for skaters and bikers (I watched some kids doing tricks on bicycles that really impressed me). I like it that the park is not open during school hours so kids wouldn’t be tempted to cut school to go to the park. My grandson and those who were skating with him had a good time. I am not going to judge the skatepark based on whether or not I had a good time.

There is something unique about the Springfield Skatepark. I could sense it when I was down there. I could tell that the kids skating sensed it too. I can see where the skatepark is afraid that uniqueness will be lost if the Park Board takes it over. I would hate to see that happen.


Anonymous said...

What's your definition of "dang few"? :)

Great post, Jim! I agree 100%.

There is a different feel there because it's one of the few places where kids can be themselves. The parents drop them off and they can hang out with their friends.

I'm sure all of us had a place that we liked to go to when we were kids that made us feel the same way.

I don't have any need to go to the skatepark but my kids will sooner or later, I'm sure. When they do, I hope it's got that same feel for them. Kids need it.

Anonymous said...

Extremely well-written and pungent article.

10 times the insight, factual knowledge, and understanding of any other Skatepark piece to date."David takes on Goliath" (by SMSU professor printed in the N-L) was really good, but Jim, this one is really, really, good. THE goods, you got 'em on 'em. Gold from a golden oldie, who would've thunk it.

Thanks a thousand times for this goldmine of thought, analysis, and opinion.

Now, how do we get the minions to read it?

Jackie Melton said...

Very good. If it wasn't good, how could anyone read all the way to the end? I read all the way to the end, Jim.

tom said...

Doesn't the building become the property of the park board after a certain time frame anyway?? I seem to recall a portion in the city contracts that will and do allow private development on public property, but the building and all improvements at some point come under the purvey of city ownership.
Is this not correct??

In some manner though I don't believe it wise of the city to leave themselves open to any sort of legal manner in the way they have for the skatepark