New So Cal facility to be a mecca for skateboarders.

Vans began making hand-made shoes for surfers and skateboarders in Orange County, California in 1966. Since then most of its manufacturing has moved offshore, but the skate-shoe giant is returning to O.C. in a big way – with the 46,000-square-foot Vans Skatepark.

Scheduled to open by the end of the year, the new park will double as the Vans team training facility and boast 50,000-square-feet of skating space: a 20,000-square-foot street course, an 84-foot-wide vert ramp, two concrete pools, a “pee-wee” area, a pro shop, a Vans Shoes retail store, and a 5,000-square-foot mezzanine area to accommodate spectators for various events, including the Vans Triple Crown Of Skateboarding World Championships.

Vans Senior Vice President Neal Lyons says that ramp-builder Dave Duncan had circulated early park designs to pro skaters and made several revisions before the layout was finalized. “We’ve done everything that everyone has asked us to do,” he says. “And we were able to make just about everybody happy.”

The final plan was designed to allow skaters to flow from one area of the park to another, and Lyons expects the park will accommodate up to 150 skaters. Half of the park’s skating area will be concrete, including an updated replica of the Upland Pipeline Combi Bowl and an outdoor street course with marble ledges. The indoor ramps and street course will be surfaced in Finnish birch plywood. The mezzanine observation deck will extend around the perimeter of the park for public viewing, and the entire facility will be air conditioned in the summer.

Vans is spending nearly one-million dollars on construction alone. Lyons says that with 50-dollar yearly memberships plus five-to-seven-dollar sessions, he believes the park will turn a modest profit, despite high start-up and overhead costs. He also says that without being overbearing, the park staff will maintain a safe, clean facility. “We have a commitment to the community and to the families that this be a safe environment – a healthy, mainstream, safe environment that legitimizes the sport,” he says.

Before the Vans Skatepark project was announced, the City of Orange was prepared to fund a modest public skatepark. While the skaters of Orange won’t get a free park to skate, Lyons says that the mayor promised to put those funds back into the city’s schools.

Part of an 800,000-square-foot open-air entertainment and retail center being built in the City of Orange by the Mills Corporation, the Vans Skatepark will be neighbor to a GameWorks arcade, a 30-screen cinema, and other family-oriented shops. According to Lyons, up to twelve-million people are expected to visit the mall in the first year, and he expects the Vans Skatepark to attract many curious non-skaters. “The more people who are exposed to the sport, the more people will be excited about it,” he says. “I don’t think anyone is showing the sport to the average public as a sport. That’s what we’re trying to do.”