Rock Hill Skatepark Recreation Facility Activity Plan 2021-2022
To build a skatepark in Rock Hill, we need support, a location, and funds. We have the support, are working on a location, and are ready to accept donations!
This Skate Park Activity Plan is intended to complement RHPRT’s Strategic Plan to be used as a reference guide to decision-making during any skate park recreational facility considerations. This guide considers how installment of public skate parks can be accessible for a wide array of users, and sustainable for a variety of urban park environments and open spaces. Furthermore, this plan was compiled through evaluation of relevant ordinances and policies, demographic and census data, existing public skate facilities, local needs and future opportunities.
Why a Skate Park Activity Plan?
Since the 1940’s, the popularity of skateboarding has continued to grow around the world as well as right here in Rock Hill. Skateboarding is a vibrant and important activity in Rock Hill and surrounding areas, and it has been for several decades. This is true despite a lack of public skate parks – there are currently 0 public skate parks in Rock Hill.
It is surprising to learn that many cities and towns in the United States don’t have a single skatepark. It’s easy to find a basketball hoop or a baseball diamond almost anywhere you go. Yet when it comes to skateboarding, skaters have little choice but to ride on the sidewalks, on the streets, school campuses, parking lots, and other places around town. They show an uncommon dedication to their sport. And what does this commitment to physical exercise and outdoor activity earn them? In many areas it gets them a big fine.
When a community treats its skateboarders as pariahs, outcasts, and nuisances, they are telling skateboarding youth that they are not welcome there. They become someone else’s problem. “You are welcome to skate, just not here.” Skaters are routinely confronted and ticketed by police. Skaters see this as an unwinnable situation; they are passionate about skating but every attempt to find a place to skate inevitably leads to a confrontation with authority. After decades of this treatment, “illicit” street-skating has become an indelible part of the skateboarder’s experience. This is NOT because skateboarding culture has an anti-authoritarian tone, but because so many communities have systematically confined skateboarding that skaters treat each place to skate as a temporary situation until they are kicked out. For many, it is a daily ritual. Every experienced skateboarder can share a story of being treated like a criminal. What other sport can claim that?
Advocates have been claiming for years that if your city doesn’t have a skatepark, your city IS a skatepark.
While skateboarding has been historically rooted firmly in youth counter-culture, this action sport has also grown over the past several decades to embrace skaters and families of all ages, races, genders, interests, and abilities. Skate parks are now common and popular elements in park systems, schools, and neighborhood centers.
Skateparks are large, mix use recreational facilities. Public skate parks host not only a growing community of skaters, but often participants in other roller sports including BMX riders, bicyclists, inline skaters, scooters and longboarders.
We acknowledge the City of Rock Hill is well regarded for its outstanding sports and cultural tourism venues, extensive park system and greenways. We feel a skate park recreational facility aligns with that vision to serve not only as regional activity, but a national attraction. Sports tournaments, like potential skateboarding competitions can boost economic development throughout the area from overnight stays, restaurants and other local activities.
There is growing demand for quality public skate facilities to serve skaters and others who have not been able to practice their action sports in Rock Hill public parks. These action sports, or roller sports are often categorized as Extreme Outdoor Sports, which has been a growing trend itself. Skaters without adequate facilities have often turned to skating on public infrastructure, causing property damage and leading to controversy, tension and public misconceptions of skaters.
The 2012 RHPRT Strategic Plan calls for development of facilities to meet the current and future needs for Parks, Recreation and Tourism programs and venues. Specifically, it listed four priorities to focus on, two of which directly relate to a skate park recreational facility:
Maintenance and Infrastructure Needs of Existing Facilities
Provision of Facilities and Open Space Through Partnerships
Major Sporting Venues and Regional Park Facilities
Connectivity for Bicyclists and Pedestrians through Trails and Greenways
This plan is a roadmap for providing quality support to the local skate park community and encouraging skating among new and diverse generations of park users. Additionally, the economic impact of a well-built skate parks can draw new tourism to the area. The quality of Rock Hill public skate parks could draw people of all backgrounds, appealing to teens looking for their own space, adults looking for individually-directed recreation options, and parents looking for a safe community space to support their child’s interest in learning a new sport. Skate parks also encourage outdoor recreation, build social capital, and promote an active lifestyle while bringing accessible recreational opportunities to an underserved population.
The 2015 City of Rock Hill Comprehensive Plan calls for prioritized values and goals including;
Grow Inside First – preserve environmentally sensitive areas & open space
Provide Better Connections – support all users & transportation modes
Reinforce Strong Neighborhoods – support community engagement & recreational opportunities
Ensure Functionality with Inspiring Design – provide inspiring community facilities & generate economic vitality
This plan envisions a network of public skate infrastructure that supports not only individual users, but also group demos, amateur classes and competitions, and professional events. It looks forward to a local public skate scene in which skaters and other action sport enthusiasts can take pride and which the larger community will see as an integral and important part of recreational offerings of the Rock Hill park system.
Modern skateboarding has its roots in mid-century California surfing culture, and began to hit its popularity stride with a wider audience in the 1970s. While historically rooted firmly in youth counter-culture, this action sport has also grown over the past several decades to embrace skaters and families of all ages, races, genders, interests, and abilities. Skate parks are now common and popular elements in park systems, schools, and neighborhood centers.
Benefits of Skateboarding
Personal accomplishment, including facing fear and challenges individually
Building social networks and community bonds
Increased physical activity, strength and balance, burning 150-500 calories an hour
Increased creativity and confidence
Provides position options for youth and teen activity
Healthy, pollution-free alternative transportation
Skate parks can promote economic growth through tourism
Low operating and programming costs are a smart community recreation investment
According to the "Public Skate Park Development Guide" published jointly by Skaters for Public Skate Parks, the International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC) and the Tony Hawk Foundation, 8.6% of American youth under 18 have ridden a skateboard in the last year.
Industry statistics company Statista estimates approximately 8.1 % of US youth ages 5-17 skate, as well as 3.3% of young adults ages 18-24.
The current popularity of skateboarding was highlighted in the "Outdoor Participation Report 2017" by the Outdoor Foundation, which lists skateboarding as the #4 "favorite outdoor activity" of youth ages 6-24, behind running, biking, and fishing.
Perhaps the ultimate measure of athletic popularity outside of the X Games is that skateboarding will for the first time be a competition category in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Certainly skateboarding is not a passing fad. It drives a $4.8 billion dollar global market, including everything from equipment to footwear, fashion, videos and music. Yet the cost of entry for beginners can still be affordable, especially with used or borrowed equipment and, free skate parks. Skate parks have been accepted by many communities as a relatively low-cost and effective means of safely providing recreation amenities, particularly for the often hard-to-serve teen demographic.
Skaters participate in more than one type of skateboarding in a variety of locations. Street skaters enjoy skating on a street, plaza, or other primarily flat terrain which has strategically placed obstacles and features on which they can test creative routes and do tricks. Transition, or Vert skaters enjoy more vertical and curved surfaces including swimming pool-like bowls, snake runs, and ramps on which they can gain speed and height to do tricks. Many public skate parks have a combination of street and vertical elements to appeal to a wide variety of users.
Extreme Outdoor Sports
Extreme outdoor sports, also known as action sports or alternative sports, are sports or pursuits characterized by high speeds and perceived high risk. The sports most commonly placed in this group are skateboarding, snowboarding, freestyle skiing, in-line roller-skating, street luge, and BMX and mountain biking. Growth in popularity over the past 20 years has resulted in a high demand for these types of sporting opportunities in local communities.
The introduction of the skateboarding sport to the Olympics in 2021 will surely increase its popularity, as has its inclusion in other high level competitions such as the X Games. Our region supports several visitor attractions for adventure or extreme outdoor sports; The US National Whitewater Center, SouthTown Wake Park, Camp Canaan, and the Rock Hill BMX Track. Constructing a proper-sized public skate park in Rock Hill would enhance our ability to blend into the Extreme Outdoor Sports industry.
Skate Parks Overview
Skate park infrastructure comes in all shapes and sizes, strengths and weaknesses. In order to determine what is best for your community, we need to understand the options. Skate park shapes and sizes can be whittled down into three main types of parks; Skate Spot, Neighborhood Skate Park, and Regional Skate Park.
Skate Spot. Skate spots are the smallest building block in a community-wide system of skate parks. They can be between 1,500 to 5,000 square feet, and can serve as many as 10 simultaneous users (depending on size and design).
Spots can be designed and built specifically for skateboarding; they may combine a structure created specifically for skateboarding with ordinary public sidewalks and paths; or they may even be structures originally designed for another purpose that happen to be popular with skateboarders; additionally they can create linkage between two destinations or pathways. All of these can be effective, successful skate spots.
Neighborhood Skate Park. Neighborhood skate parks are between 6,000 to 12,000 square feet and can adequately serve a population up to 25,000 residents. They are generally a mix of terrain styles and provide some comfort amenities. A neighborhood skate park of average size and quality design can serve as many as 60 simultaneous users.
The neighborhood skate park is the basis for all other skate parks. It is the most common, easiest to develop, and what most people envision when they hear the word “skatepark.” Neighborhood skate parks are the backbone of your community-wide skate park system. They serve as local attractions for the area youth and will almost immediately become a community landmark for kids in the vicinity.
Neighborhood skateparks are only alike in their size; the style and appearance of those parks can be very different. Some neighborhood skateparks are created with a few ramps on a decommissioned tennis court, while others are integrated into the natural landscape. Some reflect local history, and others don’t look like skateparks at all due to their interesting materials and organic contours. The point is that neighborhood skateparks offer great design flexibility and can be modified to help shape the public experience and perception.
Regional Skate Park. The regional skate park is primarily defined by its large size and capacity to handle crowds, often 20,000+ sq. ft. and serving 100+ patrons. They often draw visitors and competitions from all over the nation and, although they may seldom be the sole purpose of a vacation, they are typically visited by travelling skaters as “must see” attractions.
Regional skate parks are often the goal of communities looking to create an ambitious, impressive facility. This solution can spur economic development by attracting visitors from a wider area. (Essentially, the further one travels from home, the more money one likely spends on necessities.) The regional skate park often becomes a premier feature in a Parks and Recreation department’s inventory of properties.
There should be a regional park for every five skate parks in a service area. The service area of the regional skate park is significantly larger than that of a neighborhood skate park. The regional skate park draws from a very wide range so its precise location in the community is not as critical to its success. Regional skate parks should be easily accessible from nearby interstates and highways.
The Skatepark Adoption Model (or SAM) is a formula for calculating how much skate park a community needs to serve maximum simultaneous number of skaters in your area. The following figures have been adapted from the SAM model.
Service Area: Rock Hill
2020 Population: 75,000
Number of Casual Skaters (3% of pop): 75,000 x 0.03 = 2,250
Number of Core Skaters (27.9% of casual skaters): 2,250 x 0.279 = 628
Peak Load (33% of core skaters): 207 at one time?
Level of Service (# at Peak Load x 150): approximately 30,000 sq. ft. total needed
A skater needs about 150 sq. ft. to complete a simple run and 10 skaters can share that space, taking turns. One 10,000 sq. ft. skate park is recommended for every 25,000 residents. According to the City of Rock Hill its population is 75,000 residents. Therefore the City of Rock Hill could have 3 Neighborhood Skate Parks that are 10,000 sq. ft. or an equivalent of 30,000 sq. ft. to match its population to the SAM model.
A permanent concrete skatepark costs approximately $45-$55 per square foot to build. A Regional Skate Park of 20,000-30,000 square feet would cost $900,000 - $1.6 million.
Call for an Expanded Vision
The City of Rock Hill could instantly reap the benefits of any size or type of skate park as a recreational facility of any kind. However, we do want to recommend inclusion of all three types of skate park projects in the City of Rock Hill for consideration.
Regional Skate Park – Location TBD
Most regional skate parks provide services beyond simply a place to skate. They almost always have spectator seating, bathroom facilities, parking and lights for evening use. They’ll often be the venue for pro team tours and skate competitions. We recommend the City of Rock Hill take full advantage of the ever-trending and popular Extreme Sports industry by constructing a modern, concrete Regional Skate Park, approximately 20,000-30,000 sq. ft., 0.6 acre lot.
This Regional Skate Park recreation facility can quickly become the beacon of skateboarding in the Southeast and will have a direct impact to the travel and tourism in the area, giving our community a boost in economic impact. This Regional Skate Park can also become a component of a larger plan to incubate foot traffic and build a vital, social space.
Statistically, skate parks safer than basketball courts.
Insurance concerns about liability can impact park agencies' willingness to try new facilities or changes to existing designs and operation practices. This impacts skate park element heights, fencing, and use of protective equipment. Like other recreation activities, park system recreational immunity should apply. Many other PRT departments "determined that liability for skate parks is the same as any other free public sports facility - all sports are played "at your own risk".
There are approximately 4,000 skateparks in the United States and yet one virtually never hears of lawsuits against the managing agencies.
The state of South Carolina considers skateboarding to be “hazardous recreational activity ” -- this is good for parks that allow skating. Because the state recognizes the activity as inherently hazardous, the municipality and employees have no responsibility if and when skateboarders injure themselves (as long as appropriate signage at the skatepark entrance includes all the legal fine print required by law). Bicycling is generally considered in the same way. By skateboarding, or riding a bike, you accept the inherent risks of the activity, and therefore have no legal grounds to hold anyone else liable for your well-being.
In most areas of the nation, skateparks operate for decades without any legal risks by simply posting a sign that reads “skate at your own risk.”
Most municipal parks including those that allow skating fall under the city’s umbrella insurance coverage, especially considering that skateboarding is responsible for fewer injuries than other common sports. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual electronic survey of hospital emergency-room visits reveals that softball, soccer, and basketball, among other popular sports, are responsible for more injuries per 1,000 participants than skateboarding. Still, many cities prefer to insure their skateparks with a separate policy. While many common insurance carriers have not written policies for skateparks, a few have. Their experience covering skateparks helps them quote policies that can be significantly less expensive than competing firms.
Promote Safety at Skate Parks
All sports involve risk. In fact, the consideration of risk is healthy for children, teens, and adults. Skateboarding is sometimes perceived as overly dangerous because of the heights of elements and hard surface below. In skateboarding, falling is to be expected, but serious injuries are not common. Nearly all fatal skateboard accidents occur in public streets and sidewalks, not in dedicated skate park spaces. Most of these injuries involve a motor vehicle. However, there are some simply safety measures to instill to help limit injury to skaters and other park users.
Similar to bicycling on designated paths and mountain biking on trails, protective gear including helmets, pads, and wrist guards should be strongly recommend but NOT required for skate park users, whose use of the facilities will be “At Your Own Risk.”
Like many other recreational activities, skate parks will generally not be supervised or monitored routinely by staff. There is an aspect of skating that is self-policing and older skaters often model proper behavior for younger skaters.
Design and maintain skate parks for visibility so they are not hidden from public view and can be passively monitored.
Posted signage for “Skate At Your Own Risk” that also lists skate park rules and skate park address, to assist users in contacting emergency personnel.
Hours of operation, auto lighting…
The majority of time at skate parks should be devoted to unstructured use, but the following are a variety of ideas for skate park community and partnership programs.
Partner with experienced skaters or outside vendors to offer learn-to-skate workshops open to the general public
Partner with Rock Hill’s Commission for Children & Youth to further enhance and promote positive development through physical activity
Bundle skate classes, camps and events into other local programs targeting teens and young adults
Empower skaters to learn skills from each other via formal and informal mentorships.
Organize local skate competitions, host other unrelated events