Being an area that helped give rise to modern skateboarding, Venice has not had much of a shortage in producing skating talent.
But one thing that seems to have been missing from the beachside community’s skateboarding resume is a designated facility for the generations of skaters to test their latest tricks.
As the sport was going through a revolution in the 1970s, skateboarders would scour the Venice and Santa Monica area to find an empty pool to ride. When the years went by, they would make their way down to the old Venice Pavilion or along a concrete section of the Boardwalk to skate, but they were without a dedicated park.
That will soon change as a beachfront skate park is now in the works to join the group of distinctive attractions that are part of the Venice Beach landscape.
“It’s certainly a longtime coming and it’s almost an indescribable feeling,” Geri Lewis, skate park coordinator and executive director of the Venice Surf and Skateboard Association, said of the plan for a new Venice skate park.
Longtime skateboard enthusiasts and Los Angeles city officials officially broke ground Saturday, January 31st, on the 16,000-square-foot in-ground skate park that will finally give the skateboarders and in-line skaters a place to call home at Venice Beach. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who said he pledged as a candidate to help bring a skate park to Venice, noted that the facility is expected to open by the end of the fall.
“This park that will be built here will be the premiere skate park in America,” Rosendahl predicted. “When this park is complete the living legends of skateboarding will have a fulfillment of their dream. It’s a wonderful moment for all of us to finally have a skate park in Venice Beach.”
Skateboard enthusiasts note that the project is particularly fitting because it will bring a standout skate park to a community that is considered one of the birthplaces of the sport. Venice and the Santa Monica area known as Dogtown are widely credited as the place where modern skateboarding originated.
“Venice Beach is known worldwide as a legendary skateboard area,” said Jesse Martinez, a professional skateboarder from Venice. “It has such a reputation as a hardcore skate area.”
City Department of Recreation and Parks officials have also noted the significance of the beachfront skate facility’s location. The Venice facility will be the ninth skate park that is operated by the department.
“We think it makes sense to build a skate park in Dogtown, where it can be argued that skateboarding was created,” said Sophia Pina-Cortez, Department of Recreation and Parks west region superintendent.
Skaters who have been active in the effort to create an official park referred to the decades-long vision for a facility for the youths, one that many doubted would ever be fulfilled.
“We were a band of skaters who took on a huge undertaking,” Lewis said of the effort.
Martinez said “the whole entire neighborhood is in complete shock that this park is even being made,” but the facility will be dedicated due to a number of people, including the Surf and Skateboard Association, who never lost faith.
The nearly $2.4 million project is being funded through Quimby funds (developer fees), Damson Oil Facility Restoration funds, Venice Area Surplus Real Property trust funds, and the Capital Improvement Expenditure Program of the city general fund, according to the recreation department.
The skate park will be located at the former Damson Oil site, close to the Public Art Walls and existing skate dance area near Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk. The project includes installation of an entry plaza and surrounding walls, construction of concrete walkways, removal of existing rock revetment at the site, restoration of power to an existing lifeguard tower and landscaping and irrigation.
Among the features of the concrete in-ground facility, which was developed with input from professional skateboarders, are bowls, ramps, rails, platform steps and a “snake run.”
“It was designed by local professional skateboarders — legendary guys who know a lot about skateboarding,” Lewis said.
The project, which will be built by California Skateparks Inc., was designed by RRM Design Group of San Luis Obispo, in collaboration with Wormhoudt, Inc. of Santa Cruz.
The Surf and Skateboard Association is also working to have the park named after Dennis “Polar Bear” Agnew, an innovative skater who died in 2004, Lewis said.
Skateboard Association representatives said the new park will help keep youths away from the streets and involved in a recreational activity. The park can also help create jobs, increase tourism to Venice and boost business for local skating companies, according to the association.
Lewis and other longtime skateboarders in the Venice area predict that the talent level of young skaters will see a rise with the new facility, which will not only rival other premiere skate parks but stand out as one of the only beachfront skate parks in the country.
“(The skate park) will carry on the tradition here that this is a skateboard/surf town, and it will put that in stone,” Martinez said.