Local skateboarders in Westchester and Playa del Rey now have a place to showcase their skills without traveling to Venice or West Los Angeles.

The Westchester Park Skate Plaza officially opened July 22 and hundreds of skaters descended on the park to size up the ramps and the design of the new facility.

Davonte Scott, 17, described the new park in skater slang, calling it “crazy” as he took his turn among the others waiting to try out their tricks and jumps.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “This is the best one that I’ve been to since I’ve been skating.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl headlined the speeches by city department heads and the co-owners of the Berrics, a skateboarding website. Rosendahl, who represents Westchester, said he was inspired to open the park by a family friend, Adam Hamilton, who as a young boy complained of not having a place to skate.

“As an 11-year-old, he had no place to skateboard, so he and his friends built their own right out on the street,” the councilman recalled. “So when I got on the council and because of Adam inspiring me, I decided to make the commitment to build as many places as I can so kids can have a place where they can skateboard.”

Rosendahl credited Steve Berra and Eric Koston, two professional skaters who helped design the skate plaza, with bringing the hundreds of skateboarders to the park by announcing the opening on their website. He also thanked the Annenberg Foundation, which made a $125,000 donation to the skate plaza.

City funds also contributed to building the skate plaza, with $225,000 coming from Quimby funds, money that developers in council districts contribute to park enhancement projects.

Charles Annenberg Weingarten, who attended the March groundbreaking, did not attend the ceremony. Liza deVilla Ameen of the foundation spoke in his place.

“I’m really happy that the Explorer team, that worked with the city, were able to help create this beautiful space,” she said.

Explorer is a foundation project of Annenberg Weingarten’s that spotlights creative nonprofit organizations around the world.

The plaza is the third skating area that has been built in Council District 11 since the councilman took office in 2005. Stoner Park’s facility in West Los Angeles was built first, followed by the beachfront Venice Skate Park, which is considered by skating enthusiasts to be a world-class skate park.

Plans for a skate park in Mar Vista were postponed due to the proximity of residences near the park. While there have been complaints from apartment dwellers who live near the Stoner Park skate park, the Venice location became very popular immediately.

Westchester Park does not abut residential neighborhoods and noise from the park is not anticipated to be a problem, say city officials.

And Rosendahl considers the third time to be the charm in his quest to add more recreational space to his district.

“It really makes me feel good,” he said after the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the skate plaza. “In the last six years, one of my commitments has been to get skate parks on the Westside. Why shouldn’t these kids have a positive outlet for their energy and enjoy skateboarding?”

Hamilton, now 26, gave the new skate area high marks. “It’s awesome,” he said as he watched skateboarders doing takeoffs and landings.

“As a kid I would get on buses and go to downtown Los Angeles or Long Beach, which on a bus is quite a ways from Mar Vista,” he said. “That’s why it’s good to give these kids a place to go, and it’s a much better alternative to them hanging out in a place where there may be drinking or drugs.”

Rosendahl said building a skate park in his district was not an easy sell initially. “It was difficult, but when I saw that the Venice park ran out of money, that was the first big check that I wrote,” he recalled, saying that it took over $1 million in Quimby funds to complete the Venice skate area.

Westchester Park’s basketball courts were uprooted to make way for the 9,700-square foot skateboarding area. Only one court remains, just below Rosendahl’s office.

The councilman also touched on the commitment from the Annenberg Foundation.

“The joining of the private sector and the public sector are the kind of partnerships that will make things happen in the years ahead,” he predicted. “The city’s budget can’t handle most things right now, but if you can get a private partnership relationship you can make it happen.”

To the east of the skating area is a new playground, which cost approximately $450,000, according to the Department of Recreation and Parks.

“This really adds another dimension to the park,” Rosendahl said of the marine-themed area. “You can have very young children playing over there with safe, playground equipment, teenagers and young people over here skateboarding and adults utilizing the other areas of the park.

“That’s what I like about this… it’s a multipurpose park.”

None of the skaters wore helmets or elbow or knee protection, which will not be required in the skate plaza.

“Since the skate place or skate spot/plazas are not staffed, we are only required as per state law to post the signage regarding wearing of equipment,” explained Craig Raines, a landscape architect with the Department of Recreation and Parks. “At our parks that are staffed, you must wear the gear and the attendant will not let you in to skate unless you are geared up.

“These parks are also generally fenced in,” Raines added.

The Westchester skate plaza does not have a fence.

Additional park improvements, which will include tennis court lighting improvements and new batting cages for baseball and softball, are slated to be completed later this year. Last year, the park’s pool, which had been closed for several years, reopened in July and the baseball diamonds and soccer fields were also remodeled.

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