Vail Town Council moves on skate park plan
VAIL — Like a lot of people, Bill Suarez heard about a plan to put a skate park in a small open area between the decks of the Lionshead parking structure and said, “What?” But that small space is the likely new home of a permanent skate park for the town.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved hiring design firm California Skateparks, at a cost of $83,500, to design a park for the small space. The company will get to work immediately — the company president was watching Tuesday’s meeting on the Internet — and the new park could be finished by the end of October.
Town officials, along with skaters, have been looking for a permanent skate park for years to replace the temporary, seasonal park that now spends its summer atop the Lionshead structure. Replacing the temporary park would cost about $250,000, and town project manager Todd Oppenheimer said this is probably the last season for the current equipment.
During the years, Oppenheimer said officials have examined 12-14 different sites. None worked, for reasons ranging from environmental issues to being too close to homes to being in locations skaters can’t conveniently reach.
The idea for a permanent park had stalled until Cameron Chaney came along.
Chaney, a sophomore at the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, last year started working with computer design software on an idea for a skate park in the unused space at Lionshead structure. That idea, taken first to friends, then the Vail Recreation District then town of Vail officials, at first drew skepticism, then real interest.
“When I first was approached, I looked at it a little cross-eyed,” said Garfunkel’s owner and skateboarder Mike Dunlap. Dunlap talked about the idea with a well-traveled friend in the skateboarding business, who then sent photos of parks in similar small spaces.
“This is something we can use very viably,” Dunlap said. “It’s accessible, it’s on bus routes, it’s next to restaurants.”
And, because of the location, Dunlap said the proposed park could be very safe for spectators.
Since people can look down into the park, Chad Young of the Vail Recreation District said the colored concrete and sculptural elements in the park will be easily visible for people driving into the parking structure.
“This park has a lot of possibilities,” Chaney said. “We can make a park everyone loves.”
“We’ve tried to find people to tell us this is a bad idea,” Oppenheimer said. “But the more people we talk to, the more people are excited about this space.”
Some Town Council members were enthusiastic about the plan.
“I love this — it can be a skate park attraction,” council member Dave Chapin said.
Mayor Andy Daly, though, said the tight space would be a compromise, questioning whether the park could be a “world-class” facility.
Chapin agreed the idea is a compromise but added, “As a compromise, it’s a good compromise.”
While the council approved funding for the design, the town would probably have to pull money from reserve funds to cover the estimated $1.5 million cost of the entire project.
With that in mind — as well as the fact that a more firm estimate won’t be available until the design process is finished — the council didn’t approve a full budget for the project.
Still, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the idea.
“We desperately need a skate park,” Daly said. “There’s been a lot of frustration trying to find a location.”
Suarez, a Vail business owner and member of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors, agreed about the need and urged council members to do the project to Vail’s standards.
“We need it badly,” Suarez said, adding that the team working on the project “wowed me tonight.”
Talking about Vail’s other well-known parks, council member Greg Moffet said all were done in tight spaces, and all have their charms.
“With all of them, we built something that, if not world class, is Vail class,” Moffet said. “Let’s make this our kind of place.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.