Area skateboard, in-line skate and BMX bike enthusiasts will have a park to call their own Saturday, with the grand opening of Kenai's new skateboarding park, located at the Kenai Recreation Center.
The park is being provided and overseen by the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department and will be a place for skaters, boarders and bikers to catch some air and practice their moves. It will be an outdoor fenced-in park located on the south side of the gym at the rec center.
The grand opening of the park will be Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Zumie's of Anchorage is bringing a live band and skateboarders from the Anchorage area to do some demonstrations. The event may also include some demonstrations from peninsula kids, said Bob Frates, director of Kenai Parks and Recreation.
"The kids are all excited, and it's a neat thing for the community," he said.
Frates said a skateboarding park in Kenai is an idea that has been two years in the making. The idea originally came from area youth. The concept was considered and approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission. The project was than approved for construction by the Kenai City Council.
Skaters and bikers in the community were asked to participate in the planning and design process. Frates estimates that about 20 kids were involved in preliminary planning meetings and in choosing what ramps and other elements the park would have. According to skateboarder Ty Kirsch, he thought the city needed a park so skateboarders would have a place to go without worrying about being kicked out or getting in trouble.
"It's a giant step forward for the city in terms of demonstrating to the kids that the community does care about the youth and wants to give them recreation opportunities," Frates said.
The designs for the ramps and park elements came from the American Ramp Company in Missouri. They generated a list of elements that the kids chose from. Parks and Recreation purchased the selected ramps and elements from the company, which sent the material to Kenai with a company representative who helped put them together.
"There's a number of ramps and some grind rails," Frates said. "There's a total of nine elements of varying degrees of difficulty. They're pretty intimidating-looking to me."
According to Bowman McDonald, another skateboarder, the park has a quarter-pipe, a wedge, a tabletop and a fun box with a rail.
"I was expecting a smaller park," McDonald said. "It's quite a bit bigger than what Seward's got and the rest of the skate parks around. I'm pretty impressed ... and looking forward to seeing it evolve and get bigger next year and seeing how people react to it."
The ramp constructions are all metal and had to be fabricated on site with the help of area welders and businesses. As of Friday, workers had put in more than 200 hours on the project and the ramps were not yet completed. But Frates is confident the park will be ready for the Saturday opening.
"A lot of work has gone into this," Frates said. "It's a lot of welding and fabricating. I can't say enough about the welders and businesses that have helped us with this. We've got some of the best welders in the nation up here, and this project demonstrates that. They've done an excellent job."
The project carries a price tag of around $32,000. The ramps themselves cost $23,000, with another $9,000 for the fence that encloses the park. The funds came from the multi-purpose project fund.
The park will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. There will be separate times for BMX bike riders and skateboarders. BMX bikes will be allowed in the park Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12-4 p.m. and in-line skaters and skateboarders will be allowed to use the park the rest of the time.
"All indications at this points say that this will become one of the busier places for kids to recreate at," Frates said.
Parks and Recreation workers will control access to the park and the hours of operation, although it will be an unsupervised park. Users will skate and bike at their own risk and safety gear is highly recommend. Anyone 18 and under must go through a safety orientation provided by the rec center with a parent or guardian and sign waiver forms before being allowed to use the park. Park users will be issued an identification card and must check in and out of the park as they would the rest of the rec center.
For questions or additional information, call the rec center at 283-3855.
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