Boardroom Skate Park
I first got involved with the skate park around the end of 2004. My girlfriend at the time Anita had a friend called Rico who had somehow acquired the old ramps from skate city, Whitley bay (and before that they were from Fast Eddies park in the Spanish City. I was intrigued to say the least so one day I went down to see Rico. The building was part of Mill Lane Youth Centre in Elswick, Newcastle up in the west end of the city. The council had agreed to let Rico use the building to store some vehicles of his on the condition that he clear out all of the old junk and equipment that was still there from the old car mechanic youth project. He had originally planned to set up a break dancing hall with gym but when he was offered the ramps for free he decided to have a go at getting the skate park set up.
The first time I saw the place it was jam packed full of crap. Old tools, a big bus, vehicle parts, crash mats, scrap timber and the remains of skate city’s ramps. The mini ramp was in place in one corner and the skeleton of a bowl shape had been set out. I was excited to get involved in the project as soon as possible.
Along with the other volunteers that Rico already had there we thrashed out some ideas and rough plans for what we could build in the modest space available. Our creativity was restricted somewhat by the fact that there was no funding despite many failed attempts, so we salvaged what we could and with the small grants available we reconditioned the old ramps and used donated supplies where we could.
At the time I was studying Logistics and Supply Chain Management Bsc at Northumbria University and was working part time at Subway. Rico had been offered the chance to go Spain to perform in the renowned ‘Pirates’ acrobatics show. He offered me the opportunity to project manage the park while he was away, a chance that I did not see coming round again any time soon so of course I said yes. I left my course and my job and took on the duties of managing the park full time.
We secured £5,000 funding which covered much of the timber and tools required to finish most of the park. After about a year we had what resembled a skate park including a café/spectator area, and for a group of people who had never built a ramp before that is pretty impressive. The photos will show you better but what we had built was very BMX orientated, and once you dropped in you could lap the park about 4 times with out pedalling.
Unfortunately not everything went according to plan. We struggled with the funding process, mainly because we were already half way through the project when the applications were submitted (the normal way is to apply when you have the idea for a project) and because one member of the council had some sort of problem with Rico from a project he ran in the past. Some of the people recruited to help us from various community fund companies were also less that helpful. This seemed to be the main obstacle preventing us from going any further. The fact that we were also volunteers was also a problem; working full time for no money is certainly stressful. Never the less we persevered, since we did not have the funds to pay for a toilet block to be installed we hired portaloos, paid for insurance and had the company registered. We began to let local riders and skaters become members of the park and held a number of taster sessions one week before we were shut down on the council. We even appeared on Look North (local News) in hope of getting the support we need.
Eventually the whole situation forced me to quit and seek paid employment. That was over 2 years ago, and the park (as far as I know) sits dormant. I did get involved with the new group briefly about a year ago but it was a severe case of déjà vu going to the same meetings and getting nowhere. The midi ramp that was installed at the Baltic centre was donated to the group during that period, which was eventually swapped with Rico for ownership of the ramps in the Boardroom as he was no longer part of the project.
Oh well what can you say. It was a brilliant experience and looking back I would still do it all again in a heartbeat. I was maybe a little naïve taking on such a mammoth task but who wouldn’t want to design, build and run their own skatepark. It was my dream job from the day I picked up a BMX. Thanks to everyone who helped out along the way, you know who you are as well as everyone who came to check the park out. Who knows maybe one day the park will open, if the council decide to pull their fingers out!!