Fort Worth

Skateboarders say planned Fort Worth park is ‘rad’

Special to the Star-Telegram

It is a sport that 34-year-old Justin McGuffin does with his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4.

And it is maybe the only sport, McGuffin said, where you will see a 30-year-old helping an 8-year-old who is helping a 60-year-old, all of varying skill levels and from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Welcome to skateboarding, a sport that continues to boom.

“This is a lifestyle,” said McGuffin, an advertising executive who bought his first skateboard the day after Christmas in 2012 to try something new. He has been hooked ever since.

Fort Worth — following the lead of cities like Roanoke, Arlington and Irving — recently decided to build its first major skate park, to the tune of $600,000.

McGuffin was one of about 20 skaters and parents who attended Fort Worth’s first public input meeting recently to talk about what the park — which will be about 7,000 square feet smaller than others in the area — should look like.

Despite the smaller size — 13,000 to 16,000 square feet — McGuffin and others were just glad the park is happening.

Sheila Hill, chairwoman of Fort Worth’s parks board, agreed, saying she tried for years to persuade the city to fund and build a skate park.

“Kids need it. They can’t skate in parking lots. They can’t skate at school. They can’t skate at the mall. They can’t skate downtown. Where are they going to go?” Hill said. “This is just as important as late-night programs.”

The skate park, part of a $3.8 million development of Chisholm Trail Park in southwest Fort Worth, could include skating elements such as a bowl or street-plaza features to mimic the urban environment. It might also incorporate elements for BMX bikes and similar sports.

Here to stay

Skateboarding is not a fad, stressed Trevor Morgan, vice president of Newline skate parks, the design and construction team on the project.

In fact, skateboarding has been around in its earliest forms since the 1950s, with the first commercial board sold in 1959.

The International Skateboarding Federation has applied with the International Olympic Committee for official recognition, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk told Larry King that the sport is “very likely to be at the 2020” Olympic Games.

Skateboarding is growing as a spectator sport and can point to the popularity of the X Games as proof.

X Games Austin, set for June 4-7 at the Circuit of the Americas, will feature skateboarding and BMX racing, plus a concert by heavy-metal rockers Metallica. Last year’s X Games Austin drew a crowd of 160,000.

Most of the men at the public meeting were in their 30s and 40s, and many go to the parks in Arlington and Roanoke.

The 21,000-square-foot public skate park at Vandergriff Park in Arlington opened in March 2014 and cost $1 million to build. The park includes a traditional bowl, a snake run and plaza-style terrain.

The 20,000-square-foot Roanoke Skate Park opened in January and cost $1.1 million.

The sport “is unique and fun, and there are so few barriers,” Morgan said. “You’re not paying user fees. You’re not joining a team. You don’t have to wear a uniform. You have all different ages of users and backgrounds using the same playing field. It is really cool.”

Waiting for a skate park

Ray Byrd, 34, said he has been waiting for a skate park in Fort Worth since he was 8. He remembered when the city said it would build one at Gateway Park in 2009. But the money never came, and the project never happened.

“I have been asking these questions my entire life, and all I’ve been hearing is, ‘I don’t know,’” he said. “Now I’m an adult and I don’t want to hear ‘I don’t know’ anymore. We haven’t had a skate park, so this is rad. This is why we are here. This is important. This is my life.”

Without a sanctioned place to go, especially as a teenager, Byrd was often ticketed or harassed by police for skateboarding where it is prohibited, he said.

And Morgan said that’s part of the problem.

“If you don’t have a skate park, what becomes a skate park? The whole city, anything you can ride that maybe wasn’t ever intended to be a skate park — downtown ledges, banks and back yards, whatever,” Morgan said. “When you have unsanctioned use of these areas, you get conflict.”

Hill said the park, set for completion by May 2016, should eliminate some of that conflict.

She hopes the park is so popular that Fort Worth builds three more — one in each section of the city.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst