Skateparks closer to reality – IWU Student Featured


October 4, 2006

Anhvu Le, 15, has been a skater for the past three years.

After school, he often can be found at Faith Baptist Church on Indiana 26 East, east of Lafayette, doing tricks on the church’s skateboard ramp in the parking lot.

"I live right across the street," the McCutcheon High School sophomore said. There are hardly any other places he can go without being chased away by police, he said.

But news is starting to brighten for skaters who have complained for years about having no place to go. First, the church eventually plans to put the ramp in a skatepark as part of its $9 million community center, currently under construction. But the skatepark still needs funds to get off the drawing board.

Then there’s a project Lafayette parks officials have been discussing for years — one which has kept local skaters in anticipation of finally having a city-run skatepark of their own along the Wabash River in Digby Park. But the city has faced a budget crunch over the past few years — forcing the skatepark proposal to the sidelines.

That could be changing.

City officials have confirmed they will seek two grants totaling $625,000 to get the downtown skatepark rolling again.

The nonprofit Lafayette Parks Foundation last week submitted a $600,000 grant request to NCHS, the former owner of Home Hospital once known as North Central Health Services, said parks superintendent Ted Bumbleburg. The foundation also plans to seek a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

Founded by professional skater Tony Hawk, the foundation gives grants of up to $25,000 to help construct skateparks.

According to its Web site, the Lafayette-based NCHS gives grants in Tippecanoe and the seven surrounding counties to projects "that share our commitment to health and healthy communities, primarily through grants for capital projects."

Skateboarding "is a healthy activity," Bumbleburg said. "It’s one of those activities that gets people out and moving."

The city had the Chicago-based Greeley and Hansen architectural firm create a conceptual design for the skatepark last year, said City Clerk Cindy Murray. But since then the drawing has just been gathering dust.

Lafayette skater Amber Casto, 25, is a full-time student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. She helped organize a skating event at Lafayette First Church of the Nazarene in September 2005.

Casto said the local skating community was disheartened last year when city officials announced the city had no money to build the skatepark.

The new information excited her. Casto thinks it could give the skating community a big boost.

"I think it’s going to be awesome," Casto said. "I think it could make a lot more people start skating."

Shown the conceptual design, Le had only one word: "Wow!"

Le believes the skatepark would fill a void in the community.

"We’ve been wanting a skatepark for like many years now," he said. "A lot of people would be there, people from out of town, maybe even out of state. That’d be cool to have."

Mayor Tony Roswarski agreed with Le.

"I really do believe we have an underserved population," Roswarski said.

Instead of waiting for city money, which could take many years to free up, the city wants to move forward with the project, Roswarski said.

Dylan Wierenga, 14, is a freshman at Harrison High School. He also comes to the ramp at Faith Baptist to skate. The only other place he goes is the Purdue University campus.

Having a skatepark downtown would be cool, Wierenga said.

"We wouldn’t get kicked out of places," Wierenga said. "We aren’t allowed to skate on stairs."

But even if the city gets both grants, it won’t be enough. The city will still need about $300,000 more, because the overall price is about $1 million, Roswarski said.

If the city gets both grants, "then we’ll probably launch a private fundraising campaign," Roswarski said. It’s far too early to discuss a construction date since there are too many variables, the mayor said. "We just don’t know."




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