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Final countdown 

After a long haul of fundraising, the finish line is in sight for supporters of the new Halifax skatepark. Guy Quenneville reports.

The construction company has been selected, the tendering process is nearly finalized and virtually all the funding is in for a sizeable addition to the skatepark currently located on the Halifax Common.

The project is a joint venture between HRM and the Halifax Skatepark Coalition, a group of volunteers who have been lobbying for this project since early 2004.

Jacquie Thillaye, the president of the Coalition, says that construction on the site is expected to begin in April. The construction period will last two to three months. The concrete will then have to set for 50 days, with an official launch date in September—just in time for the return of students.

“The park will have two or three new bowls,” says Thillaye. “One of the bowls is going to have a nine foot depth and it’ll have what’s called a ‘vert wall,’ which means that people can get up out of it and get air above it. There’s also going to be lots of rails and ledges for people to do various tricks on. It’s going be a lot bigger and really well laid-out.”

The site will be formed with concrete, a far better option than the modular ramps used in other parks. “We want to make sure that it’s around for a long time, because it will get used,” says Thillaye. The current Common skatepark was built bit by bit, with skaters themselves raising money and soliciting occasional donations from city council.

The new site—which has a targeted budget of $500,000—has benefitted from several generous donations. Aliant and CycleSmith have recently come on board as corporate sponsors. City council has also pledged a significant amount of money from its Community Buildings Fund. Thus far, the Coalition has raised $538,049 for the new park.

The project came out of discussions with concerned Halifax skaters about the lack of adequate facilities in the city. “I got to talking with some of the older skaters about how poor our facilities are comparatively speaking to what’s going on in smaller communities in North America. I thought, ‘If my kids were playing hockey or baseball or basketball, they’d have somewhere good to go to do that,” says Thillaye.

Thillaye and the rest of the Coalition have actively sought the advice of those who will use the site, which has helped them better plan ahead. “A big concern of skaters who’ve heard about the project is lighting,” she says. “They want to know that they’ll be able to use the site during off-hours. Luckily, it looks like we’ll have enough money to ensure lights are installed after the last phase of construction.”

The company chosen to design the skatepark is the Vancouver-based Spectrum Skatepark Creations, which specializes exclusively in the design of municipal concrete skate parts. Spectrum is headed by Jim Barnum, a long-time sponsor skateboarder. Says Thillaye, “You have to understand how ‘the flow’ works. How people move in and around the park, how they can hit the different obstacles. That’s key. You have to be a skateboarder to know that. So we lucked out with this company.”

Thillaye believes the park will help in the revitalization of the downtown area. “Halifax considers itself a world-class city. We need to keep up with what’s going on. We need to be progressive in our thinking to attract people here and to keep it an exciting, vital place. I think this will make a big difference downtown.”

The advance buzz is promising. Thillaye says she has already received calls from skateboard companies wondering when the park will open so that they can do demonstrations and hold competitions.

The Coalition will be holding a public skateboard art auction in June and a grand opening event sometime in September.

“The kids want this,” says Thillaye. “We should be encouraging them to be healthy and active, and giving them a safe place to do this.”

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