Sactown and Z-Boys

Capital-city enthusiasts may finally get the ‘destination skate park’ they’ve been craving

Project Manager Roy Tatman figures there’s about $700,000 available for the first phase of the park’s construction.

Project Manager Roy Tatman figures there’s about $700,000 available for the first phase of the park’s construction.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Midtown Sacramento’s Hart Senior Center may not be a typical epicenter of the skateboarding universe, but it played the part well enough last Thursday during the “kickoff design meeting” for a new regional skate park. Possibly the first time there were more skateboards than rolling walkers in the senior center’s Cypress Room, the event drew dozens of local skateboard devotees eager to discuss the art of grinding and carving with renowned skate-park designer Wally Hollyday. In fact, Hollyday—who moved to California at age 19 and promptly built his first skate park in 1977—looked to be the oldest person in a room filled with preteen to 40-something enthusiasts.

Hollyday is drawing up plans for the first phase of a planned two-acre regional skate facility at Granite Park on Power Inn Road, which the city hopes will be usable by early next year.

“We’re going to design the whole thing, but we’re only going to build part of it,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Project Manager Roy Tatman of the park’s first phase, which is expected to begin construction in June. The project is being funded as part of a joint development contract between the city and Granite Partners, a group of land companies and developers.

Granite Park is being built as economic conditions permit, with money provided by the developers linked to their progress on private projects.

“It’s all driven by the economy,” said Tatman, who figured that about $700,000 is available for this phase of construction. Much of that money will go into planning, along with irrigation and landscaping work to prepare the ground before any concrete is ever poured for the skaters.

Ultimately, the proposed bowls, banks, half-pipes and rollovers will be part of what Tatman calls “a big, multiphase park.” The site is currently partly developed, with soccer fields and horseshoe pits already in place. Planned facilities will include an all-weather-turf field, the skate park, a two-acre dog park, hiking trails and an amphitheater. The park, a former mining quarry, has been a city project since the late 1980s.

The skaters, meanwhile, paid little heed to fiscal matters, being much more interested in attempting to have some influence on Hollyday’s design. “It’s all about speed,” argued one enthusiast, who hoped that the final result would “not be just another one of those things.”

Half-pipe dreams: Skate-park guru Wally Hollyday talks to local supporters about how to create a showcase park in Sacramento.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Hollyday said he wants to design a park that “addresses all kinds of skaters,” whether they prefer street or bowl skating. “I don’t like to really repeat things,” he said, noting that even if past parks have been satisfactory, there is always something new to include. “Every skate park I do gets better and better,” he told the skaters, while encouraging them to contribute any ideas they wanted to see included in the design.

Hollyday said he has designed some “30 or 40” skate parks, and the company he works with, California Skateparks, has completed twice that number. The process was much less formal, he said, when he designed his first skate park more than 25 years ago. He explained how he used to “just eyeball” the measurements for his ramps and stairs; today, he uses sophisticated computer technology and precise measurements to get the most out of his designs.

While the going could get arcane—Hollyday spent several minutes explaining the critical differences between a 7-foot ramp and a 7.5-foot ramp to a couple of skaters—enthusiasm for the project was clearly contagious. The skaters showed a wide knowledge of existing skate parks across the country and expressed the hope that Granite would be on a par with other great regional skate parks. After all, they reasoned, California is the birthplace of skating, so Sacramento ought to have a showpiece park, the kind of place dedicated skaters would make pilgrimages to. As an example, they cited Southern California’s Lakewood Skate Park and New Jersey’s Cherry Hill Skatepark, both of which are considered “Wally Hollyday classics.”

“We need big,” advised one skater.

“Everything is based on clovers,” mused another.

The discussion went on for a lively 90 minutes, as Hollyday conferred with skaters around the table, strategizing how to pack maximum thrills into the pattern of rails, trannies and pockets that finally could put Sacramento on the skateboarding map. Skaters also compared notes on “pipe journeys,” odysseys in search of particularly large cement pipes, typically situated near dams, where the skater can aspire toward the vertical without benefit of municipal involvement.

Tom Max, who said he had 20 years’ experience skating, is confident that Hollyday will design a successful park. “Wally’s one of the best, if not the best, at finish work,” said Max, who explained that no matter what the design, the finish on the concrete is the true measure of the park’s quality.

“We’re going to build something that’s safe,” Tatman said. When reminded of the importance of making Granite a destination skate park, he promised, “We’re going to try to achieve that, too.”

The Parks and Recreation Department is planning another meeting for the skate park on February 17.