New skate park opens in late May for freestylers and Sunday strollers
Ten years in the making, $4.6 million spent, and over 70,000 square feet of skateable surface: Paine's Park is unique among American skate parks in that it is designed to solve multiple programming challenges: move people between the Schuylkill River and the Parkway, create a centralized gathering spot along the heavily used Schuylkill River Trail, and make it awesome enough to be a skateboarding destination like Love Park used to be.
"For years and years and years everyone's been trying to skate Love Park regardless of the rules, getting hasseled every spot we go to," said Nick Barba, of the Philadelphia skateboarding Team Nocturnal, who previewed the park's granite benches, brick quarter pipes, and stair railings in advance of the official May 22 opening. "Finally we have a place we can go that's like those spots, but we're allowed to be here. We don't have to look behind our backs for cops."
The park has direct nods to Love Park: the edges and steps are at the same height as those of the concrete park in Center City, and some of the benches are made from the same granite slabs repurposed from Love Park when it was renovated 12 years ago.
"We wanted to differentiate this park from Love. It was never meant to be a replacement, or a replica," said Claire Laver, executive director of the Franklin's Paine Skate Park Fund. "Love Park was and is and always will be this amazing mecca of skateboarding in the world. It has this incredible aura."
The challenge was to make Paine's Park attractive not just to skateboarders but to everybody else. It is a mixed-use space, meaning it needs to be inviting to brown-bag lunchers, sun worshipers, dog walkers, Sunday strollers, and skateboarders.
The 3-acre park is built with green spaces, benches with curved steel armrests (impossible to skate) and rough cobblestone paths. "It's about certain design and material choices that will organically encourage or discourge activites in certain places," said Laver.
Now that she built it, will they come? A handful of skaters from Team Nocturnal invited to preview the park were enthused, as was a young child--with a board that was almost as long as he was tall--who came running when he saw the chainlink construction fence had been opened.
Paine's Park has already been booked to be a stop on a national skateboarding tour, the Zumiez Couch Tour, which could draw thousands to watch live bands and skateboarding pros try out the park for the first time on June 21.