New Skate Park to Double as Storm Water Facility

Jul 2, 2019

An example of a skate spot in Tacoma, Washington at Thea's Park Skate Spot.
Credit City of Pensacola

Later this year, skateboarders in Pensacola will be able to perform Ollies, 360s, nosegrinds and the occasional goofy-foot, while helping the environment.

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Mayor Grover Robinson said a number of “skate spots” will be constructed entering Hollice T. Williams Park underneath Interstate 110.

“These skate spots will include not only a safe area for our skate community, but also create interactive locations that serve as building blocks for STEM and STEAM learning,” said Robinson at his weekly news conference. “Phase one of the project will add [a] skate park and spots to Williams Park, which will address the immediate needs for [the] skate community until the larger skate park can be completed.”

Based on the popularity of the sport locally, the City Council has funded the skate park as a priority project. But Robinson says they’re still about a year away from breaking ground. For now, they’re waiting on Escambia County government to develop a plan and hire a project manager.

“My understanding is, by the end of the summer, they should have their plan done and hopefully get that person selected in maybe about a year and then start construction,” said Robinson. “That’s my understanding that the skate park’s going to be one of the first things implemented. We need them to put in the restrooms and the other things; and then we will start doing construction on the park as soon as we have those.”

“Now that we have public funding, it’s going back out for bid with the rest of the Hollice Williams Park, and my understanding is that we’re really, really close,” said John Shell, a Pensacola entrepreneur and the impetus behind the skate park/skate spot project.

Shell’s group is working with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition to develop an “augmented reality component,” built into both the skate spots and skate park, with the park doubling as a control for stormwater runoff.

Pensacola Entrepreneur John Shell (R) talks about the skating project as Mayor Grover Robinson listens.
Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

“So think like Pokémon Go, or the new Harry Potter game, but way cooler,” Shell said. “[IHMC says] that we’ll be able to trace a drop of water; the hope is that it will kind of connect us all and we’ll be able to be more mindful, as far as trash and the kind of fertilizer we use.”

Much of the construction material for the skate spots will be concrete left over from the renovation of the federal courthouse downtown – so-called “reject pieces.”

“Anywhere from 1,000-1,500-square feet,” Shell said. “But they’ll be in a linear arrangement leading into where the skate park’s going to be. We talked about starting with two to three of them, and should be skating those sometime in the fall.”

Skate spots are designed to replicate common locations outside a park which are popular among skaters, but may not be legal or safe. And, there is a difference between a “skate spot” and a “skate park.” 

“When you think about a ‘skate spot,’ you think ledges, stairs, banks, rails, things like that,” said Shell. “It’s not going to look like a skate park, like it’s built to skate, but happens to be a perfect obstacle that challenges skateboarders.”

Using past flooding disasters as a blueprint of sorts, Mayor Grover Robinson believes the new retention pond at Hollice T. Williams will provide extra protection for downtown Pensacola.

“Once it’s in place it’s really going to help potentially flood control for downtown; those things we saw during the 2015 storm,” said Robinson. “Now, I’m not here to say that 24-inches of rain in 24 hours we can handle again, but I will say we will be much better able to handle a storm of that magnitude than we were in April of 2015.”

When work begins later this year on the skating areas and the stormwater pond, the projects will be paid for with RESTORE Act funds, and conducted simultaneously.Later this year, skateboarders in Pensacola will be able to perform Ollies, three-sixties, nosegrinds and the occasional goofy-foot, while helping the environment.