Groundbreaking nears for long-awaited Philly skatepark

It’s not the granite benches, the concrete steps, or the steel rails. The hardest part is the waiting.

“Confidence is low with a bunch of skaters because they haven’t been updated,” said Darien Schell, owner of Armory East Skate Shop on Spring Garden Street. “They are not putting it out there for the kids to know. And the kids are everything.”

Schell is frustrated with the lack of progress on Paine’s Park, a long-anticipated skatepark. It’s been talked about since 2002 when the city banned skateboarders from Love Park. For 10 years, that world-renowned skate spot has become better known as the place where police aggressively chase out kids on boards.

“A bunch of people are starting to believe less and less that this project is going to happen,” said Schell. “I’m not knocking them, but whatever they’re doing, they need to pick it up, man.”

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Recently, they have picked it up. The Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund has gotten design approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission, and has put the construction contract out to bid. The 2.5-acre project is expected to break ground this fall at an estimated cost of $4.5 million.

The skatepark fund has not been idle for the last 10 years. The organization has created a citywide strategic plan regarding skate parks, and constructed several new parks in outlying neighborhoods.

But Paine’s Park was always its centerpiece, and its toughest nut.

As both a replacement and an update of Love Park, Paine’s Park needs to mimic street skateboarding while not being intrusive on urban traffic. Its design has no half-pipes or bowls like FDR Park has; it’s all concrete benches and metal rails like Love Park has. But, unlike Love Park, these will be legal to grind.

A bit of skateboarding history will be incorporated into the new park: old granite slabs from Dilworth Plaza, which is now being ripped apart for reconstruction, will be used in Paine’s Park. They may still have dings created by the trucks of past skate legends.

“Everybody loves to skate granite,” said Claire Laver, executive director of the skatepark fund. “It’s a material that holds up really well over time, as well. So from the skateable aspect, the granite is very appealing. And, of course, the history and links back to Love Park and City Hall are meaningful to skaters as well.”

It will likely be meaningful only to older skateboarders, since a lot of younger skaters only know Love Park as that place where they get hassled by police.

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