Host: Given the senior citizen-heavy demographics here in Southwest Florida, it’s actually amazing the City of Sarasota has a skate park. Skateboarders, inline skaters and scooter riders have crowded the facility at Payne Park so much that the city is now pondering a second skate park, as Ramon Lopez reports.
[Skate park noise]
Ramon Lopez: There’s a ‘skate of mind’ among the estimated 1,400 skaters in Sarasota. And that is, the one skate park in the city is not large enough to serve the skating public. That’s the message proponents of expanding skate parks countywide sent to the Sarasota City Commissioners Oct. 2.
The skate park charge is led by pro skateboarder and Olympian Jake Ilardi, founder of Skate City SRQ. He told the commissioners that the lone skate facility, located in Payne Park, is too crowded.
Jake Ilardi: The problem we have today is Payne Park is too crowded. Sometimes we’ll go over there on Friday/Saturday, and there’s over 100 kids there. You can’t even skate in a straight line because you have so many kids. It’s a good problem to have. It’s the only skate park in the city. It’s not only serving the kids in the city, but all the kids in the county. So we think the solution is new skate parks or a new skate park.
RL: Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch invited Ilardi to speak at the meeting.
Jen Ahearn-Koch: I’m no newbie to the skate world. I have two boys, and one of them really likes to skate a lot. So, it’s been in my world for a very long time. But I remember when the park was created 20 years ago, and part of the discussion was that skating is on the rise, and it’s not going to go away as a sport. I think Jake has proven how popular it is and how proud we are to have him to represent Sarasota. The discussion was if you don’t foster and have a place and create a place in your city for this up-and-coming sport, then the entire city will be an unsafe place for kids to stay. And so we did, we came behind, and we did create the skate park at Payne Park that we have now. And the numbers for me are way larger than I ever imagined.
RL: The backers presented the commissioners with various cost estimates for building an additional skate park. They have no particular location in mind, but want to go beyond Sarasota city limits.
Skate park backer: We know which parks you guys are going to be enhancing in the next few years, and we’d love to get involved in that process and dovetail in on maybe something in Newtown, or something a little further out east. There’s no shortage of good places. It’s really just about consensus and doing everything properly and above board.
RM: They are already lining up funding through business partnerships, events and donations and hope for city and county funding as well.
Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown plans to get ‘the ball rolling’ with discussions between city staff and Skate City SRQ reps. The unscheduled talks would lead to a future presentation before the city commission.
Marlon Brown: We as a city want to invest in this. So that’s the conversation we need to have first before we move forward, but we need to sit down with them to share the ideas, location so on and so forth. Get with staff, determine if it’s appropriate. There’s a lot more work to be done. So, I have to kind of temper your excitement and have a conversation with them first.
RL: Jen Ahearn-Koch backs the skate venture.
JAK: What I don’t want is to have this discussion again in a year and say ‘well, we dropped the ball’.
RM: This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR
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