Building A Subterranean Infrastructure

Concrete-park builders are constructing a solid future for skateboarding.

Standing in the middle of the timeline that skateboarding is creating, it seems we have an equally clear view of the past and the future. Of course, the concrete parks of the 1970s and 80s were the proverbial shit, terrain-wise, but from that linear moment we learned they were not the “investment opportunity of a lifetime,” as many hoped¿they were the exact opposite, as a matter of fact.

Flash forward, if you would.

Look down the line to the far right, and you’ll see that the concrete renaissance of the 2010s was the perfect answer to a nationwide cry for more and more places to skate. As street skating became a focus for the quota-bound police departments in most cities, the low maintenance and high permanence of these unsupervised public superstructures provided an “off-street” location for independent athletes to do their thing¿furnishing a mandatory ingredient (alongside disc-golf courses, free public transportation, and no-driving lanes) of any metro area’s infrastructure.

So here we sit in the center of time, knowing full well where we’ve been and where we want to go¿now all we have to do is start making shit happen. Once a city or town finally agrees that it’s time to provide an arena for the skateboarders of its community (a massive hurdle in and of itself), who do they turn to fill the cement-coated, public-parkless void that we all claim is invaluable to the development of our future?

Below is a short list of folks who are in the business of making sure we move through this pivotal moment in skateboarding’s timeline while making as few mistakes as possible. Concrete-park builders one and all, they are well-read when it comes to this particular line, and with their combined knowledge, the future topography of skateboarding will be undulating, all accessible, and expertly finished.

SITE Design Group, Inc.: (480) 894-6797

After witnessing, firsthand, literally dozens of poorly designed and built skateparks, Mike McIntyre figured it was time to make a difference in the skate-architecture boom we’re currently enjoying. Using the power of his architecture and environmental-design degree, as well as two decades of skateboarding experience, he took the first steps in removing the influence of non-skaters on the planning and building of concrete parks. In 1999 Mike formed SITE Design Group, Inc., a business that specializes in public-skatepark design and planning.

“Knowing skaters travel, we make sure we get a lot of feedback from skaters outside the region where we’re building a park, as well as from top pro skaters,” Mike relates. “The anatomy of the park should accommodate all skill levels and allow for progression. Also, we try to create timeless features that will keep skaters coming back for years to come.”

Employing a skate-centered design staff that includes Brian Harper, Colby Carter, Mark Leone, and others seems to be the method that SITE has chosen to approach providing communities with exemplary skate structures. They still have to give some charge of their designs to the lowest public bidder, but McIntyre assures clients a controlled environment: “Brian Harper will be heading up construction services on-site to make sure every step of the project goes as per plan. In the past, some contractors have refused to submit a pour schedule, rushed the shotcrete work without enough finishers, or kicked us off the site when we tried to stop the pour. They also underestimated the power of rejection clauses in the contract and are now having to take out all the bad work.”

It’s this attention to detail coupled with a proactive design philosophy that has given cities like Phoenix, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Boulder, and San Diego the timeless benefits of SITE’s skater-planned concrete parks.

Purkiss Rose & Associates: (714) 871-3638

The best-laid plans are just that¿plans. Anwithout the space to turn a skatepark design into reality, you’re dead in the water. Steve Rose explains: “Your number-one concern is site selection. It’s the biggest challenge. In some cities, we’re in our fourth year and we still can’t pick a site. Sometimes the neighbors don’t embrace the idea of a skatepark. In the industry we call that NIMBY¿not in my backyard. There’s a perceived problem that skaters are going to bring in drugs or beer drinking. Even though that’s not true and even though we can dispel those ideas, some neighbors of existing public parks just don’t want a skatepark.”

But as more and more townships effectively ban skateboarding from their streets and business districts, they ignore the needs of a growing number of skateboarders by neglecting to provide them with a place to practice their sport of choice, a problem Steve has dealt with for many years.

“In the early 90s, Huntington Beach, California banned skateboards everywhere, and there were a lot of skaters there. At the time, we were providing some park-planning services for the city. Over a hundred kids went to the city council and said, ‘Hey look, you’re building tennis courts, why can’t you build something for us? You’ll get more use out of a skatepark facility than you ever will out of a tennis court.’”

From that experience Steve learned the importance of skater input on any park plan. “We have pro skaters on our design team: Frank Hirata, Jeremy Wray, and up north we have Mike Taylor. A lot of times we’ll go to a community and they already have a great skater. We also use a skatepark builder named Rob Monroe Rob O Ramps. With these guys as part of our team, we can go into a community, do our site analysis, set up a skate task force, and get all different age groups in there to tell us what they want.”

A critical factor, Steve reiterates, is the one that has made so many of the skate projects he has worked on (Vista, Santa Barbara, and Visalia, California) successful endeavors. “We strongly recommend that any crew constructing a skatepark put an experienced skater on their team and have them there during different stages of construction.” It’s a realistic plan that inexpensively guarantees that any future skateparks, concrete or otherwise, will be of the best-laid variety.

Rick Carje Masonry Contractors (RCMC): (714) 969-5922

“I’ve been a skater since I was a little kid,” Rick Carje humbly but passionately affirms. “I always worked construction back in school, during summers and whatnot. Eventually, I went on to become a mason contractor and then just kind of fell into a dream, you know? It’s like a dream come true.”

Realize it or not, Carje’s dreaming has helped countless others recognize their own round-walled fantasies. The early-90s Orange County oases Belmar’s pool, Chicken’s pool, and the clover known to some as the Basic Bowl were where he cut his pool-building teeth. He’s since moved on to found RCMC, the company responsible for the concrete work at the Vans Skateparks that have been popping up around this grand country of ours.

Carje’s crew is big¿upward of 40 guys, trucks, trailers, and other equipment. It’s all totally mobile, and 99-percent skater staffed. “Out of all the guys who work for me, there are maybe two who aren’t skaters,” he says. “It’s not like a prerequisite or anything, it’s just that I’ve known a lot of these guys for a long time. They work hard and take a lot of pride in everything they do. The coping’s gotta be set perfect, the tranny’s gotta be right¿no lumps, no bumps, no kinks.”

It’s easy to see the advantages of a crew of skaters, but what exactly does Carje see as the advantages of concrete?

“Longevity¿there’s no maintenance with concrete. But you also only get one shot with concrete. You can’t pull a screw and fix it. You just hope that you get the layout and design all together properly in the beginning, and that makes it much easier to lay down the concrete later.”

Keeping it together means knowing what it is. And for RCMC, it isn’t necessarily one single item. Over the past two years they’ve been building inside malls that are also under construction. So on top of checking and rechecking every step along the way¿from coping to forms to templates¿Carje literally has a million things on his mind. “I’ll be inside with the building being built over my head, digging a hole, thinking about what’s going on for the outdoor street course,” he says. “You can’t ever really get it out of your head.”

Who’d want to get that out of their head? Like the man said, it’s a dream come true.

Wally Hollyday Skateparks: (562) 208-4646

“I try to blow people away,” Wally Hollyday bluntly offers on his skatepark-building methodology. “That’s what I’m going for. I’m not trying to get people to come along and say, ‘This is cool; this is all right.’ I want them to go, ‘Oh my god! What the hell?’ I want them in shock. That’s the goal. I look at every skatepark as an opportunity to blow everybody away.”

A quick look back at the latter-day exploits of this legendary concrete master reveals that Hollyday has made the most of his opportunities. “The older parks I worked on were Lakewood, Cherry Hill, Apple, Whittier, Colton¿there were a few others, but I think those are the ones people would know.”

More recently, he had a consulting hand in the Orange, California Vans Skatepark, he’s conjured up a private utopic creation in North Carolina, and will return to that state in October to begin construction of Wilmington’s first public park¿countless other Hollyday projects are in the early planning stages, as well.

No doubt these projects will all receive the benefits of his artisan perfectionism. But how does Hollyday arrive at a starting point? What are his primary concerns, so to speak? “Proportion is very important,” he says. “You know, spacing and composition¿basic design elements that apply to everything.” While these words might seem overly lofty, art-speak ideals coming from a dig-in-the-dirt type, you must remember that all the people who have sampled the fruits of his work¿whether they know him or not¿are more than willing to accept whatever he says as skatepark gospel.

Wally Hollyday is no old-school grouch, though. As he’s the first to admit, the present and future are just as important as the past. “Pools are still very important,” he says. “People have been riding them for 30 years and are still very passionate about them. Up-and-coming kids are going to be interested in pools as they become available, but I also think you can’t shove it down their throats.” Yes. We all know how painful that can be.

It’s this suffering¿present and future¿that Hollyday is passionate about avoiding. “There are two different sides to a good park,” he states, as if offering doctor’s advice. “There’s design, which are the ideas¿that gets into philosophy and trends and what kids want. I think as long as it represents the way people are skating now, and the way they may skate in the future, it’s a good design. But really, a good park is defined in terms of quality of construction. For example, a pool is a very simple design. If it’s perfect, then it becomes legendary. If it’s bumpy and just adequate, then it’s forgotten.”

Hopefully with Hollyday back in the blend, the park-building bar will be raised, and more unforgettable parks will be built¿not just by Wally, but by all the concrete specialists currently stirring the kettle.

Team Pain: (407) 695-8215

There are hundreds of concrete parks that have been constructed over the past three or four years. But if anything, these parks have been the catalysts for skaters “coming out of the woodwork,” as the saying goes¿making the need for more parks a clear and present truth.

The way Tim Payne sees it, though, “more” has to be better defined. Parks eer.”

Keeping it together means knowing what it is. And for RCMC, it isn’t necessarily one single item. Over the past two years they’ve been building inside malls that are also under construction. So on top of checking and rechecking every step along the way¿from coping to forms to templates¿Carje literally has a million things on his mind. “I’ll be inside with the building being built over my head, digging a hole, thinking about what’s going on for the outdoor street course,” he says. “You can’t ever really get it out of your head.”

Who’d want to get that out of their head? Like the man said, it’s a dream come true.

Wally Hollyday Skateparks: (562) 208-4646

“I try to blow people away,” Wally Hollyday bluntly offers on his skatepark-building methodology. “That’s what I’m going for. I’m not trying to get people to come along and say, ‘This is cool; this is all right.’ I want them to go, ‘Oh my god! What the hell?’ I want them in shock. That’s the goal. I look at every skatepark as an opportunity to blow everybody away.”

A quick look back at the latter-day exploits of this legendary concrete master reveals that Hollyday has made the most of his opportunities. “The older parks I worked on were Lakewood, Cherry Hill, Apple, Whittier, Colton¿there were a few others, but I think those are the ones people would know.”

More recently, he had a consulting hand in the Orange, California Vans Skatepark, he’s conjured up a private utopic creation in North Carolina, and will return to that state in October to begin construction of Wilmington’s first public park¿countless other Hollyday projects are in the early planning stages, as well.

No doubt these projects will all receive the benefits of his artisan perfectionism. But how does Hollyday arrive at a starting point? What are his primary concerns, so to speak? “Proportion is very important,” he says. “You know, spacing and composition¿basic design elements that apply to everything.” While these words might seem overly lofty, art-speak ideals coming from a dig-in-the-dirt type, you must remember that all the people who have sampled the fruits of his work¿whether they know him or not¿are more than willing to accept whatever he says as skatepark gospel.

Wally Hollyday is no old-school grouch, though. As he’s the first to admit, the present and future are just as important as the past. “Pools are still very important,” he says. “People have been riding them for 30 years and are still very passionate about them. Up-and-coming kids are going to be interested in pools as they become available, but I also think you can’t shove it down their throats.” Yes. We all know how painful that can be.

It’s this suffering¿present and future¿that Hollyday is passionate about avoiding. “There are two different sides to a good park,” he states, as if offering doctor’s advice. “There’s design, which are the ideas¿that gets into philosophy and trends and what kids want. I think as long as it represents the way people are skating now, and the way they may skate in the future, it’s a good design. But really, a good park is defined in terms of quality of construction. For example, a pool is a very simple design. If it’s perfect, then it becomes legendary. If it’s bumpy and just adequate, then it’s forgotten.”

Hopefully with Hollyday back in the blend, the park-building bar will be raised, and more unforgettable parks will be built¿not just by Wally, but by all the concrete specialists currently stirring the kettle.

Team Pain: (407) 695-8215

There are hundreds of concrete parks that have been constructed over the past three or four years. But if anything, these parks have been the catalysts for skaters “coming out of the woodwork,” as the saying goes¿making the need for more parks a clear and present truth.

The way Tim Payne sees it, though, “more” has to be better defined. Parks either need to have more square footage, or there needs to be more parks in one area. While the puny efforts offered by most cities have quenched thirsty skaters for the time being, the skatepark drought will become more evident as existing parks attract interest.

“Size isn’t emphasized enough in public parks,” Tim bellows. “They’re way too small. If a city is going to build one skatepark for an entire city to use, it needs to be the size of two football fields. Either that or cities need to build satellite parks that have different stuff in them. Each town needs to have three or four parks. Kids can only travel about fifteen minutes away from their house on an average day. It needs to be more convenient for the community.”

Although what Payne says might sound far-fetched to some, he’s really not that off base. The legendary 70s and 80s skateparks were, on the average, ten times the size of today’s concrete structures. And even his theory of multiple parks for a single town has been realized today in cities like Phoenix, Flagstaff, Eugene, and San Diego, with others threatening to step up to the plate. So from now on, when Payne talks passionately about other subjects, people should just assume that he knows what he’s talking about. Because, quite simply, he does.

“A park should make you be creative with the way you skate,” he says. “It should be challenging in a way that what you’re riding is safe and controlled, but at the same time there’re always options for you to get better. You should be able to ride the whole park without pushing. But if you want to session one thing, that should be designed in the park, too. I think it’s critical to design a park that flows but is street skateable at the same time.”

A welcome recurring theme, and a factor that ensures the success of Team Pain’s work, is that his crew is made up predominantly of skaters. And skaters, as we all know, build good parks. “The guys on my crew now designed and built Crested Butte Colorado,” says Payne. “They’ve also done Silverthorne, Salida, Breckenridge, Nashua, New Hampshire, Ocala Florida, the beginner bowl at Woodward Skate Camp, and Ocean City Maryland. We’ve also had people work for us like Mark Scott from Burnside and Geth Noble¿he just built that Newberg park and those other parks up in Oregon that turned out awesome. James Headrick is also a big part of our company as far as design goes. He’s a real fast skater who does huge tricks and has a really good eye for making a park fast as well as real technical to skate.”

So it appears that Team Pain’s philosophy can be summed up as something for every skater¿the more (defined) the better.

Dave Duncan Designs: (714) 960-8636

It’s hard to see forward in time, but being skateboarders we have a distinct advantage because we’re so far ahead of everyone else on the planet, anyway. That said, skateboarders’ predictions hold much more weight than the average Joe’s. Take Dave Duncan’s forecast for example: “The future of skateboarding is going to be park design. We’ve already seen the tricks kind of maximize themselves. Now it’s going to be the kind of terrain that people put those tricks down on, and the style in which the terrain is ridden.”

While other skaters may have his or her own ideas about skateboarding’s approaching years, any non-skater would be foolish to try and dispute this prophecy. Not only because it’s a pretty safe bet, but also because the prophet is Dave Duncan¿he’s easily seen enough to know what’s coming next.

“I rode most of the parks in the 70s, 80s, and 90s,” Dave reminisces. “And growing up in California, I’ve probably ridden two- or 300 backyard pools. My strongest thing when it comes to skatepark design is knowing many different types of terrain. I just try to take all that knowledge and apply it toward design. A lot of my history is with building wooden structures, but my love is with cement.”

Most recently, Dave’s love has led him to work with Vans at all their parks, designing and helping to build the now infamous replica of Upland’s Combi Pool, as well as constructing many of the wooden structures under the high roofs of the Vans mall offerings. DDave gives credit where it’s due, though: “When Vans offered me a job they said, ‘You can get whoever you want as a concrete expert.’ I said. ‘Let’s get Rick Carje of RCMC, because I know he builds good pools.’”

This all-inclusive attitude doesn’t just end with the building of cement structures; Duncan includes all skaters in his skatepark-design vision. “I try to give something for everybody,” Duncan says. “For example, at the Vans parks I want to give something for the kids who are just starting, and I want to give something for all types of other skating¿street courses of different sizes, mini ramps, vert ramps, pools with tiles and coping, and reservoir-type pools for the kids who are just getting involved with cement.”

Dave also subscribes to the idea that the people who work on parks should be the same people who skate the parks. “One of the prerequisites to working on my crew is that you have to be a skateboarder. Because if you skate, then you enjoy your life¿you enjoy skating. And you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s also what I’d call cheap insurance¿having a skater there, on location at all times. There are so many variables and so much money on the line that it’s an easy call. A skater is going to be able to interpret a transition or shape a lot better than some general contractor who’s just looking at a blueprint.”

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that Duncan’s vision, as well as the foresight of the other designer/builders included in this short list, is clear. Skateboarding’s future architecture is in the right hands.

er need to have more square footage, or there needs to be more parks in one area. While the puny efforts offered by most cities have quenched thirsty skaters for the time being, the skatepark drought will become more evident as existing parks attract interest.

“Size isn’t emphasized enough in public parks,” Tim bellows. “They’re way too small. If a city is going to build one skatepark for an entire city to use, it needs to be the size of two football fields. Either that or cities need to build satellite parks that have different stuff in them. Each town needs to have three or four parks. Kids can only travel about fifteen minutes away from their house on an average day. It needs to be more convenient for the community.”

Although what Payne says might sound far-fetched to some, he’s really not that off base. The legendary 70s and 80s skateparks were, on the average, ten times the size of today’s concrete structures. And even his theory of multiple parks for a single town has been realized today in cities like Phoenix, Flagstaff, Eugene, and San Diego, with others threatening to step up to the plate. So from now on, when Payne talks passionately about other subjects, people should just assume that he knows what he’s talking about. Because, quite simply, he does.

“A park should make you be creative with the way you skate,” he says. “It should be challenging in a way that what you’re riding is safe and controlled, but at the same time there’re always options for you to get better. You should be able to ride the whole park without pushing. But if you want to session one thing, that should be designed in the park, too. I think it’s critical to design a park that flows but is street skateable at the same time.”

A welcome recurring theme, and a factor that ensures the success of Team Pain’s work, is that his crew is made up predominantly of skaters. And skaters, as we all know, build good parks. “The guys on my crew now designed and built Crested Butte Colorado,” says Payne. “They’ve also done Silverthorne, Salida, Breckenridge, Nashua, New Hampshire, Ocala Florida, the beginner bowl at Woodward Skate Camp, and Ocean City Maryland. We’ve also had people work for us like Mark Scott from Burnside and Geth Noble¿he just built that Newberg park and those other parks up in Oregon that turned out awesome. James Headrick is also a big part of our company as far as design goes. He’s a real fast skater who does huge tricks and has a really good eye for making a park fast as well as real technical to skate.”

So it appears that Team Pain’s philosophy can be summed up as something for every skater¿the more (defined) the better.

Dave Duncan Designs: (714) 960-8636

It’s hard to see forward in time, but being skateboarders we have a distinct advantage because we’re so far ahead of everyone else on the planet, anyway. That said, skateboarders’ predictions hold much more weight than the average Joe’s. Take Dave Duncan’s forecast for example: “The future of skateboarding is going to be park design. We’ve already seen the tricks kind of maximize themselves. Now it’s going to be the kind of terrain that people put those tricks down on, and the style in which the terrain is ridden.”

While other skaters may have his or her own ideas about skateboarding’s approaching years, any non-skater would be foolish to try and dispute this prophecy. Not only because it’s a pretty safe bet, but also because the prophet is Dave Duncan¿he’s easily seen enough to know what’s coming next.

“I rode most of the parks in the 70s, 80s, and 90s,” Dave reminisces. “And growing up in California, I’ve probably ridden two- or 300 backyard pools. My strongest thing when it comes to skatepark design is knowing many different types of terrain. I just try to take all that knowledge and apply it toward design. A lot of my history is with building wooden structures, but my love is with cement.”

Most recently, Dave’s love has led him to work with Vans at all their parks, designing and helping to build the now infamous replica of Upland’s Combi Pool, as well as constructing many of the wooden structures under the high roofs of the Vans mall offerings. Dave gives credit where it’s due, though: “When Vans offered me a job they said, ‘You can get whoever you want as a concrete expert.’ I said. ‘Let’s get Rick Carje of RCMC, because I know he builds good pools.’”

This all-inclusive attitude doesn’t just end with the building of cement structures; Duncan includes all skaters in his skatepark-design vision. “I try to give something for everybody,” Duncan says. “For example, at the Vans parks I want to give something for the kids who are just starting, and I want to give something for all types of other skating¿street courses of different sizes, mini ramps, vert ramps, pools with tiles and coping, and reservoir-type pools for the kids who are just getting involved with cement.”

Dave also subscribes to the idea that the people who work on parks should be the same people who skate the parks. “One of the prerequisites to working on my crew is that you have to be a skateboarder. Because if you skate, then you enjoy your life¿you enjoy skating. And you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s also what I’d call cheap insurance¿having a skater there, on location at all times. There are so many variables and so much money on the line that it’s an easy call. A skater is going to be able to interpret a transition or shape a lot better than some general contractor who’s just looking at a blueprint.”

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that Duncan’s vision, as well as the foresight of the other designer/builders included in this short list, is clear. Skateboarding’s future architecture is in the right hands.

to work with Vans at all their parks, designing and helping to build the now infamous replica of Upland’s Combi Pool, as well as constructing many of the wooden structures under the high roofs of the Vans mall offerings. Dave gives credit where it’s due, though: “When Vans offered me a job they said, ‘You can get whoever you want as a concrete expert.’ I said. ‘Let’s get Rick Carje of RCMC, because I know he builds good pools.’”

This all-inclusive attitude doesn’t just end with the building of cement structures; Duncan includes all skaters in his skatepark-design vision. “I try to give something for everybody,” Duncan says. “For example, at the Vans parks I want to give something for the kids who are just starting, and I want to give something for all types of other skating¿street courses of different sizes, mini ramps, vert ramps, pools with tiles and coping, and reservoir-type pools for the kids who are just getting involved with cement.”

Dave also subscribes to the idea that the people who work on parks should be the same people who skate the parks. “One of the prerequisites to working on my crew is that you have to be a skateboarder. Because if you skate, then you enjoy your life¿you enjoy skating. And you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s also what I’d call cheap insurance¿having a skater there, on location at all times. There are so many variables and so much money on the line that it’s an easy call. A skater is going to be able to interpret a transition or shape a lot better than some general contractor who’s just looking at a blueprint.”

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that Duncan’s vision, as well as the foresight of the other designer/builders included in this short list, is clear. Skateboarding’s future architecture is in the right hands.

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