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New skate park near the University of Arizona

The University of Arizona campus is filled with anti-skateboard architecture. Students cannot walk around any part of campus without seeing the small L-shaped supports on benches, curbs, or any other crushable structure.

Most of Tucson is unsuitable for skateboarders, from the few skate parks to old, cracked, pothole-filled roads. Tucson is a city of over half a million people with a growing skate scene that has grown exponentially, but there are hardly any places for skateboarders to skate.

A plan to build a skate park on Cushing Avenue in the freeway underpass is underway, after six years of pressure from local skateboarders. The city hosted an event on April 13, the second of three events seeking community input for the skate park design.

“Engagement is for us, probably 90% [of the process]said Lara Hamwey, Project Manager and Director of Tucson Parks and Recreation. “It’s the biggest tool and then having the right companies to design too.”

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The Tucson Skatepark Alliance worked with the City of Tucson to put the plans in motion and to give community feedback along the way.

The Skatepark Alliance is a community organization that advocates for the development of skate parks in Tucson and the enrichment of life for the Tucson skateboarding community, according to their website.

“There really aren’t enough places to skate, but there is an overwhelming [amount of] skaters,” said Chris Atkins, owner of Mortal Skate Shop and co-chair of the Tucson Skatepark Alliance.

Erik Williams, also co-chair of the skatepark alliance, points to smaller towns like Safford, which has a small population of around 9,000 but already has three skateparks, roughly the number of major skateparks it has. Tucson.

Cushing Street Skatepark

The future Cushing Street Skatepark sits along the same Sun Link road that runs down Second Street and University Boulevard, to Fourth Avenue and through downtown Tucson, making it accessible to students via a direct landing stage.

The concept plan involves transitional, flow, and street skating styles with many creative designs such as a cactus and the Arizona flag painted on parts of the park.

“[Skaters] want to make sure that how the different features or designs match the way they want to skate,” Hamwey said. “We needed a [construction] company that would understand what the best practices are, what the latest trends are, and then also, the fact that skating has moved from the traditional ball orientation to what is now called street and more linear.

An additional feature that makes it unique is the shade it will provide skaters, especially during the hot summer months.

At the April 26 meeting, the results of a survey conducted by the city showed that some of the features most important to people who responded to the survey were lights, a water fountain, restrooms and garbage cans.

Survey respondents also showed an interest in parking, shade, vending machines and security. To see the full survey results, visit this website.

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The Beginning of the Tucson Skatepark Alliance

The idea started in 2016 when Atkins and Williams proposed the skate park to the city council. Two years later, the two formed the Tucson Skatepark Alliance and began advocating for the construction of the park.

The early alliance drew over 2,000 people to their meetings, but that number slowly dwindled to 12 committed members who meet regularly to discuss the progress of the Cushing Street skatepark.

“This project is really due to the Tucson Skatepark Alliance,” said André Rioux, the landscape manager for the project. “They had a vision of what should happen under that space and they stood up for it and made their voices heard.”

In 2021, the mayor and city council approved funding for a feasibility study. In 2022, from February 15 to March 6 of this year, they released a survey asking for public comment and received 771 responses.

“The only way to have a successful design is to make sure your approach is consensual,” Rioux said. “That’s why engagement and participation in the survey is so important. We can design in a vacuum without any input, but the chances of someone actually wanting to use this part and succeeding are very slim.

The project has partial funding, $500,000 from the city and what the skate park alliance raised for the project, but some of those funds were used for the design process. People can donate on the Tucson Delivers website.

“Cushing is just the beginning,” Atkins said. “We have projects that we are working on with Parks and [Recreation]building micro spots all around Tucson [and] usable bike maps, so kids can ride bikes in different parts of the skate.

What happens next

There will be another public meeting where they will take feedback from the April 13 event and create a final concept. The next step after that is to have a cost estimate and a final design that needs to be approved by the mayor and city council.

By the summer, the first phase of the feasibility study will be completed and they can move on to phase two: the design and construction of the skate park.

“In theory, you could look at 18 months,” Hamwey said. “But it is obvious that it takes money to achieve construction. Once you have the design set, getting the build done only takes a few months.


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