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Pensacola skate park construction budget gets a boost

Pensacola Skatepark.jpg
Upward Intuition
A rendering of the Pensacola Skatepark

Meeting with the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency Monday, the Pensacola City Council approved a $380,000 budget increase to build the skate park downtown.

The skate park's construction budget was $1.7 million, but the lowest bid to build the park came from Bear General Contractors, at $2.08 million about 10% higher than what was in the original budget. Mayor Grover Robinson wants the difference to come out of unused CRA funds.

“We put together masking for the council to move that forward; we’ve done a lot of engineering, a lot of study, and we’re ready to go and at this point we’ve committed to it,” Robinson said. “I hate when anything goes more expensive, but that’s where we are with almost everything we’re bidding right now. And I don’t think we’re alone in that; I think everybody’s experiencing that.”

During his weekly news conference on Monday, the mayor said a skate park is an amenity not currently available in Pensacola, adding it needs to be a part of the Hollis T. Williams Park. The city is also expecting Escambia County government to lend a hand.

“We told the county that is going to be our commitment into the Hollis T. Williams Park, as we look for the county, and RESTORE and NERDA monies to from the state to take up most of the rest of Hollis T. Williams,” said the mayor. “From this standpoint, I really would like to see us move this project forward. Obviously, the amenities that we’re already invested in are the ones we need to keep moving forward.”

“If you’re worried about the money, skateboarding is the hottest thing; the number one shoe in the world, every shoe has ‘made for skateboarding’ in it. Even if you don’t skateboard, you’re still wearing the footwear; we move business, we move money,” said Pete Kelly, a Pensacola businessman, and skateboarder — one of a number of speakers addressing the CRA.

“If we build a skate park, I promise on my end I’ll bring mainstream skateboard contests here,” he said. “That’s where we’ll keep tourism up, [and] will make that money. So the $350 or $400,000 that you may need — we can work together to make that back.”

Building the skate park, contends Kelly, is more than just pouring concrete under a stretch of Interstate 110.

"I think that this builds more than just have a park and have somewhere for kids to go,” Kelly said. “You’re building a future for them. You’re building a lifestyle for them. And I think it just goes hand-in-hand on how Pensacola’s ready to grow.”

But the skate park project isn’t the only game in town. Mayor Grover Robinson points to other amenities around the city that have undergone improvements. Such as the work at Legion Field and Hitzman Park, and future upgrades at Roger Scott Tennis Center.

“You may not use all of them, but we hope you use [at least] one of them — that’s why we do a variety of things in our parks and rec [department],” said Robinson. “There’s a lot of things we can do in priorities. I think it’s challenging when we have initiative for funding that haven’t really gone through staff that are asking for funding.”

Case in point, says the mayor, plans to build “significant” public pier space at the Maritime Park, along with other priorities there. He adds this is an example of being more deliberate in finding ways to prioritize other projects.

“We say housing is a priority — I think from that standpoint it’s critical for us to go and create new initiatives now,” said the mayor. “We need to find a way to support programs with the initiatives we’ve already got going, finish those out. If they’re new programs I think we need to put our money where we said, this housing — one of the most important initiatives we can do.”

Next stop for the budget increase proposal is the city council Thursday night. It appears to be a done deal because the council doubles as the Community Redevelopment Agency, which gave unanimous approval on Monday.