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Opinion: Skate park a real deal for Hoover

Skateboarding has caught the attention of downtown Birmingham and the City of Huntsville with the public support of legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk.

However, there is still a need for a significant home base in the state. While City Walk in Birmingham attracted more than 45,000 visitors in just six months, the growing interest in skateboarding requires more access.

Hoover is the place to do it.

As the largest suburb in Alabama and with a median household income of $95,970, Hoover is uniquely positioned to provide a state-of-the-art, intentionally designed skate park for community and competition use.

The city’s infrastructure and experience with hosting the SEC baseball tournament prove it has the power to become a mecca for traditional and non-traditional sports and outdoor recreation.

Simply outlined using the acronym SKATE (Safety-Kid friendly-Active lifestyle-Togetherness-Economic impact), we are debunking the myths associated with the fastest-growing non-traditional sport and providing five reasons why the City of Hoover should approve funding for the skate park.

Safety

When it comes to the actual sport of skateboarding, Johnny Grimes, local entrepreneur and chief advocate for Hoover’s skate park states that “skateboarding is significantly less dangerous than both basketball and football.” In fact, an five-year study by the National Safety Council on sport-related emergency room visits ranked skateboarding injuries lower than injuries from exercise equipment, basketball, bicycles, football, playground equipment, ATV’s, soccer, swimming pools, and baseball/softball.

Grimes has garnered significant support for the skate park from the Hoover community in part for its proven record to reduce illicit behavior and reduce damage to private property.

“When you give people a place to go and do something safely, that’s ran well, you reduce illicit behavior significantly.”

Keeping kids and adolescents active is the best way to keep them out of trouble. A skate park provides a non-traditional sports opportunity for girls and boys of all ages to engage in an active lifestyle within one of Alabama’s safest communities.

PC Steve Wilson of the Driffield Neighborhood Policing Team stated in a letter to Skate Park organizers, that “since the skate park opened there has been a noticeable drop in calls to youths causing annoyance-related matters” and that the skate park is “offering a valuable diversion from anti-social behavior.”

Grimes’ two-year efforts researching and campaigning for the skate park have found that offering a professionally designed and well-maintained space would provide “a safe place for kids and young adults and enhance what Hoover is already doing from a city standpoint while reaching a demographic that we are currently leaving out.”

Contrary to misconceptions about the sport, countless studies, including “Research shows skateboarding is good for your town” conclude that designated spaces for positive physical and social activities is the best way to curb illicit behavior. The Hoover location provides proximity and safety advantages to its projected 100,000+ population by the Parks and Rec board that currently requires its community to travel to downtown Birmingham for participation.

Data shows that it is in the City of Hoover’s best interest to support funding for the skate park, in turn, claiming its spot on the map for safe and exceptional access to the non-traditional sport’s fast-growing wave of interest.

Kid Friendly

Grimes’ explains “Skateboarding provides one of the lowest barriers to entry.”

Right now, City Walk is seeing between 1,400 and 1,600 visitors on a consistent basis from Hoover Zip codes. The interest is apparent, and a convenient location would provide more access to Hoover’s diverse population and surrounding communities.

After meeting with Hoover’s Park and Recreation Board, a site on the Finely Center property was designated as the best location for Skate Alabama’s current plan. This area within the Trace Crossings neighborhood is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, state-of-the-art playground and splash pad, and community events at the Hoover Met and Brock’s Gap Brewery. The space provides ample parking, safe sidewalks for walking and plenty of oversight. The city is installing a traffic light at the entrance that will provide extra safety for traffic and walking families.

The location allows parents and guardians to be involved in their child’s extracurricular activity without the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Grimes’ personal mission to see the skate park realized stems from his own background skateboarding as a kid and now seeing his own family’s love for the sport as something they can do together. The skate park would provide a new way to serve kids of all ages and all backgrounds as they outgrow the playground amenities with training, after-school opportunities, non-traditional athletics, leisure, and cultural enrichment.

“My sons and his friends skate and for the longest time, we had nowhere to go. We go downtown and we love City Walk but it would be great to have something else to disperse the crowd,” said Grimes.

Two of the top 4 most-diverse elementary schools in the state are in Hoover. Trace Crossings and Deer Valley serve kids representing more than 30 countries. Diversity is a proud mark of Hoover as its identity in the state.

Hoover is honored to have Mayor Frank Brocato in charge as someone who “embraces the diversity of Hoover and believes we are a stronger community functioning as one.” The skate park would be another way to continue his mission to do so as Grimes’ has found in his research “the one major demographic we see a massive spike in is in African Americans.”

Active Lifestyle

The health and wellness benefits of skateboarding are unique in that there is no age cap for those who can take part. Health Fitness Revolution outlines the benefits of skateboarding with a plethora of positives stating the sport offers a full-body workout, enhances coordination and flexibility, requires physical endurance, teaches precision, patience, consequences, and requires practice.

Mental health is also improved through the activity of skateboarding. The Tony Hawk Foundation funded a study of skaters from ages 13-25 and found that “the vast majority of skaters surveyed indicated they skateboard for fun and/or to relieve stress. This finding takes on a great significance in light of teen suicide rates and the prevalence of depression.”

Other key findings within the study speak to the community facilitated among skaters, the resilience gained, and the intercultural communication skills it requires to build relationships with people from different backgrounds.

Togetherness

John Kvach, executive director of the successful Singing River Trail, said, “In the past, people wanted tennis courts, golf courses, and swimming pools. In recent years, however, a shift has occurred in what people want and it includes skate parks, pickleball courts, and greenways. Connectivity and human interaction are what people crave post-COVID. Young people want to come back to communities that offer them something more than just a job and a school.”

As mentioned previously, a skate park would provide a hub for families to enjoy something together. Skateboarders are known for encouraging and championing each other whether it be in landing a new trick or in life.

Grimes even mentioned excitedly, “there’s a large group of dads who skate who go to City Walk and are getting after it!”

“This fits the DNA of Hoover ” he said. A location surrounded by family units that want to be involved in life together.

Economic Impact

Last year, it was reported that the SEC baseball tournament brought $15 million in revenue to Hoover. The final reason why Hoover needs to include a skate park in its funding initiatives is simple, ROI. A skate park would not only provide jobs year-round for the city, the instructors, and potential new skate shops to open but would open the door for national and international sports competitions and showcases.

Huntsville has already caught the attention of the sport’s leading figureheads and Hoover has a wide-open door to do the same.

“Cities like Huntsville have recognized that investing in outdoor recreation and outdoor leisure is an investment in quality of life and workforce development. What separates one town from another sometimes comes down to the amenities offered as a vision for future growth and development,” Kvach said.

A skate park would project Hoover into a new era of economic prosperity. It would put the city front and center as an industry leader for the sport as the growth of skateboarding takes its place in the future of Alabama.

Finally, Grimes said plainly that a skate park “doesn’t create a significant liability for the city, it’s an economic positive, it fosters creativity, physical health, community and positivity.”

It’s that simple, the Hoover community wants to “get on board.”

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