Photos: Courtesy of THF / Alec, eggplant. Photo: Olga Aguliar
We check in with our good friend Alec Beck over at the Tony Hawk Foundation to see what they've got going on lately and how you can contact them to get the ball rolling on getting your own town a skatepark. But it's going to take some work on your end, so don't think it's just a handout. Community activation is key and Alec is here to let you know how it works. If you want a park, make it happen! —Jaime Owens
How long have you been working at the THF and what is your role?
I've been the Programs Manager for three years. I help people with their public concrete skatepark projects.
How many people work along-side you?
It's a small outfit of eight people, two of which work in Programs with me.
Some people think the Tony Hawk Foundation is just Tony putting up all this money to build skateparks wherever, but it's actually a lot different than that. Explain briefly the process of how it works and how communities can contact you guys to get the ball rolling.
Anyone in the world who wants a public skatepark in their town can email or call us and we will teach you how to make it happen. Long story short – you make a group, figure out what size park you need, talk to your city, connect with a local service organization to act as your bank, start raising awareness and funds, connect with designers/builders to discuss what you want to skate, and pull your group through to the finish line. It's a decent amount of work, about two to three years' worth. You put in a little bit every week and get the homies and family to help out. Before you know it, you've got something magical on your hands. By the end of the process, your community has a new skatepark that's really good because you're a skater and you had a hand in the process. You know everyone in the city and have learned some very valuable skills. On top of that, you have a killer piece for your resume or college application. How many people build a half million-dollar public infrastructure project for their town? These are regular folks who just decided to do something about their town not having a proper place to skate. If you're reading this and thinking "I wish someone would do that in my town…" realize that it's probably up to you. No one is going to do it for you. If there's not already a skatepark project happening in your town, it's YOUR turn to make it happen. Go to tonyhawkfoundation.org/connect and I or one of us will teach you how to do it. We'll work with you every step of the way, for free. You can also go to skatepark.org or listen to The Skatepark Podcast to learn the ropes first. But hit us up, it's what we do. We also give grant funding to qualifying skatepark projects in low income areas (551 skateparks and counting).
Tony is a busy man, but handles his time like a pro. How much time does he get to spend working with you guys? Or is he just showing up and cutting the ribbon and taking all the credit (laughs)?
He's set up the Foundation to make sure he has the right skatepark nerds in place to field most of the day-to-day stuff. But he's super passionate about the work and details—even to the point that he helps grant recipients by offering skatepark design suggestions. He ends up balancing the street/tranny dynamic really well, usually pushing for more and better street elements where it's needed. I'm still waiting to see a hand drawn sideways loop spiral suggestion from him…
What are some success stories that stick out to you since you've been there?
There are so many different types of people who make skateparks happen. One that sticks out quite a bit lately is Imperial, Nebraska. Team Hotwheels, a small group of 11-year-olds, sold burritos out of a wagon for months and got their city so hyped that everyone pulled together to help them make the new skatepark happen. It's ridiculously touching. But every project is like that. It's the power of community.
Do you travel to all of the openings? Does Tony make it to every single one?
We miss most of the openings because we stay in the office to make sure these advocates get all the help they need. Tony makes it out to them every now and then, but it's rare.
What's it like not only working with Tony Hawk but being able to make a difference in communities all over?
It still trips me out. He ruined the "don't meet your heroes" thing for me because he's as rad as you could possibly hope he would be. As far as making a difference, I got to experience how awesome it feels to be a skatepark advocate for Stoner Park and the Courthouse, and now I get to help people feel that, gain confidence, and make concrete change in their community. Anyone can be a part of our team by helping us out with a monthly donation (turn cash into concrete!) or sharing their positive story about skateparks at tonyhawkfoundation.org/skateparkstories.
What's the hardest part of the job or hardest part of getting parks built?
The hardest part of the job is explaining to people that they have to do some work to get a skatepark. Some don't want to do the work, but those who do quickly realize it's totally worth it. Hardest part of getting parks built is dealing with locals who oppose the park, but we give you the skills to banish them to the hinterlands (or help them truly see the value of skateparks).
What's the future hold for you guys?
If you live in Michigan or New York and need a park, hit us up ASAP. Built To Play is an initiative we're implementing thanks to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation that offers massive $250,000 matching grants. Plus, there's new fun stuff coming down the pike that we can't talk about yet.
What tricks has Tony taught you on the vert ramp?
He's always encouraging. He's helped me with stalling inverts longer, Varial-Flip Indys… but I still want to learn those proper back three's on flat he's tried to teach me. He's got 'em every try.