A Rant About Our Local Gub'ment and Their New Skateboard Facility

Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 by Rob

By Rob Meronek

As a private business that makes money by having people pay for admission at a skateboard facility, we get super pissed when a gub'ment, especially in our own hometown, uses our tax money to build a facility that directly competes with us by charging kids to skate it. Just kidding! We're hyped. We want it to be free. We want kids to skate there. We want it to create more skateboarders. We want it to be used to its full potential. We know down the road when they become real skaters, they will be paying us a visit.

Unfortunately with this gub’ment park being built outside of Tampa here, the gub'ment thinks it should not be free like basketball fields, baseball courts, and football diamonds it builds. Plus, they think skateboarding is so dangerous that you have to sign your life away with a waiver. Why the hell would the gub'ment be building or supporting something they think is that dangerous anyway? Can you think of any other gub'ment facility for kids that is so damn dangerous that you pretty much need a skydiving waiver plus your parent's signature to use it? "Hey, citizens, we used your taxpayer dollars to build this human cannonball launcher on the playground because it’s the kewl thing all the hip tykes are into these days. It's hella dangerous so before you dip your kid in gunpowder and set him on fire in the barrell, can you sign this waiver thing saying you won't sue us when he dies? Thanks."

Dear gub’ment, skateboarding is not any more dangerous than having a ball thrown at your face as fast as possible and then swinging a stick at it with all your might to try to knock it straight back into the face of the person who threw it at you. We’ve been operating a skateboard facility since 1993 and skateboarding long before that so I think we have the right to say we know a thing or two about it.

So, we took it upon ourselves to let the gub'ment know what we think. Our owner, Brian Schaefer, our General Manager, Ryan Clements, and I all wrote you an email expressing how we think it should be free and open to get the most use. Imagine any other private industry offering advice and genuine help to the gub’ment when it marches in to compete with it. “Hi gub’ment, this is Mr. Hungry Howie. I understand you’ve decided to open up Gub’ment Cheese Pizzaria all over town. I’d like to help you run them properly.” Yeah, right. Well, that’s precisely what we’ve done with this skateboard park the gub’ment is trying to erect in our backyard. We just want it to be the best it can be plus we actually want to skate there without hassle and pad nannies just as the jocks and their courts and fields have.

What would you expect to hear from your local gub’ment representative working on the skatepark project to reply with? Probably a “thanks for the tip” or maybe a “cool, we’ll take that into consideration” or maybe even, “sorry, we can’t do that.” Here’s what we got: No reply. None. I love our gub’ment and I think they’re doing a better job than most on the amazingly complex task of dealing with group psychology, but today I think they’re idiots. Thanks for hearing my rant. The emails we each sent are below. Feel free to send your own to Mr. Mark Thornton at thorntonm@hillsboroughcounty.org.




Ryan Clements' Letter

Dear Mr. Thornton,

My name is Ryan Clements and I'm a life-long skateboarder, the GM at Skatepark of Tampa, and have been a Hillsborough County resident for 30 years. The skateboarding community is very excited about the new skate parks being built in the County, so thank you for your effort towards making them a reality.

I've personally been to a couple of the meetings in Brandon regarding the design and operation of the parks. Team Pain has been very accommodating to the skaters' requests as far as design goes, but at the last meeting I voiced my concern about the manning, charging, etc. to County representatives and basically received, "Well, that's how it's going to be," in return.

My main questions at that meeting: If we don't have to pay for the usage of our basketball courts, baseball fields, and football fields, which baseball and football fields arguably need much more maintenance than a skate park, then why do we have to pay to use a skate park? Additionally, what sort of injury statistics have been studied to conclude that pads and helmets need to be required for all participants, with someone manning the park to make sure these rules are enforced?

Skatepark of Tampa has been in business for nearly 20 years and it would be my pleasure to explain to you in detail how we've been able to survive. In short, we are a retail store with the giant expense of a skate park in the back. A rather insignificant portion of our revenue is generated by actually charging participants to skate.

It would be my pleasure to give you a tour of SPoT and explain the sentiment of the skateboarding community in detail. Please let me know a time that fits into your schedule. Thank you very much for your consideration regarding this subject that is very important to the resident skateboarders of Hillsborough County.

Best regards,
Ryan Clements

Rob Meronek's Letter

Dear Mr. Thornton,

My name is Rob Meronek and I've been skateboarding my whole life. I am fortunate to make a living working in the skateboard industry at a local business that has grown since being established here in Tampa in 1993. I've been working at Skatepark of Tampa full time since 2001. Prior to that, I was a software engineer in Tampa for five years. Prior to that, I was a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant working at a local firm in Tampa.

I hear you are building a skateboard facility. I also hear you have hired a great crew of experts on the design of the park, Team Pain. With Team Pain, you're ensuring your park will not suck as so many city parks still being built to this day do. Imagine trying to build a dentist chair without being a dentist. That's exactly what many cities end up with because they think they understand what a skateboarder wants from a tv show or commercial they saw. It's nice to see that won't be happening here in my town.

One thing I've also heard is that you're goinig to fence off the park, require full pads, and have hours and supervision unlike other recreation facilities such as football fields, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. We all fear things we don't understand that look dangerous and overcompensate on various forms of insurance. If I were constructing a football field, believe me, I would have one chaperone per two players and make them wear armor. I have never played football but it looks like a deadly activity to me. However, I have no numbers or statistics to back up my claims. I'm guessing you may be in a similar situation with skateboarding given the path you're taking on these policies.

If you're trying to produce revenue to cover the cost of the park, I can tell you from being the numbers guy at one of the longest running private skateparks in the world that admissions will not get you anywhere financially. Retail and events is what pays our bills here and keep us healthy. One of the longest standing parks in our area in a shopping mall in Orlando is going out of business because of trying to rely only on admissions. You will find stories like that all over the country from private skateparks. You can even look in our back yard at the Englewood Skatepark for an example of how they initially tried your model and now have it as an ordinary unsupervised facility like the skatepark we already have in downtown Tampa has been for 30 years.

I'd happy to discuss more of this with you if you'd like. Thanks for reading.

Rob

Brian Schaefer's Letter

Dear Mark Thornton,

Hope this finds you well. I am the president of Skatepark of Tampa that has been in business for almost 19 years now. First of all I am excited that there is a skatepark in the works, so great job to you and your organization for getting the ball rolling. I understand that the park is set to be a paid admission, full pads, and fenced in. I am sending this email as I have the same concerns as my colleagues below referring to the skateboarding parks being built in our county. We all want the skateboarding investment to be successful so I have noted a few important factors below that you should consider.

- admission
- at the entrance of any skatepark will not make enough money to staff it
- will limit the amount of use by more than 50%

- pads
- should not be required but encouraged
- will limit the amount of use for the facility by more than 50%

- admission, pads, regulations, and staffing is a recipe for a bad investment

I could write more, but the emails below have my sentiments exactly. I would personally like to invite you to meet with us at our location and or anywhere that is convenient for you. We can kindly listen to your concerns and discuss your project at hand.

Please don't pass up the opportunity.

Sincerely,
Brian Schaefer

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