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Buddies pay tribute to Bro Bowl skateboard park on film

TAMPA — It was 1985 when Troy Durrett first saw the place.

Skateboarders carving flexuous lines on the concrete, gaining speed downhill before bouncing over crafted moguls at the bottom.

He was about 11 years old when his dad took him to the skate bowl at Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Situated between a jail and low-income housing, Durrett's father kept his eye out for trouble as his son skated the legendary Bro Bowl.

He moved away years ago, but has been back to the Bro Bowl — too many times to count. And lately it is not just for sport.

For the past four years, Durrett and some friends have been creating a documentary, The Bro Bowl: 30 Years of Tampa Concrete, a historic tribute to the iconic skate park. The movie premieres Saturday during the Skatepark of Tampa's pro contest.

The documentary, Durrett said, tells "a story about something that might be gone."

When he started the film in 2006, a downtown redevelopment project to replace the Central Park Village housing complex would have destroyed the skate bowl.

Then a throng of skateboarders and BMX bikers protested. After a series of heated meetings, developers and city leaders decided to re-create the bowl, adding new elements, in a northern part of Perry Harvey park, near Scott Street.

However, the development project has stalled leaving acres of bare lots, a handful of empty buildings, the park and its green, graffiti-decorated skate bowl.

The slow-moving development project now means the Bro Bowl will remain intact — at least for the foreseeable future.

"There are no plans to take down the bowl at this time or replicate it at another part of the site," said Brad Suder, project manager for the city's parks department.

The pace also changed plans for Durrett, 37, and pals John DeMaio, 34, and Lance Robson, 37. Initially their intention was to memorialize the bowl after it was gone.

"Everybody that's in skateboarding has a story to tell about the bowl," DeMaio said.

Now, they call the film a tribute to the park that steadfastly continues to exist.

They worked on it in their spare time, creating the more than 40-minute movie with a budget of close to nothing.

Durrett and DeMaio met years ago while working in the film industry in Orlando. One day, Durrett approached DeMaio, who was familiar with the Bro Bowl, about doing the project as a labor of love.

To DeMaio, the bowl is unforgettable. He lived in Pinellas County, but sometimes came to the Tampa park with high school friends.

DeMaio remembers being on a family vacation in New Jersey when a friend called him from the hospital. He had broken his collarbone while skating at the bowl.

Still woozy, "he left a bunch of cryptic messages," DeMaio said. "I guess there was some huge long-distance bill."

Robson and Durrett met when they lived in Brandon. They remember taking the bus to the skate park.

"I was here when I was 12, and I am 37 and I still love coming out here," Durrett said.

Robson was about 15 when he first went to the park. His mother was running at the Gasparilla marathon, and she promised to drive him to skate if he would run, too. So he did, kind of. Really, he ran only about 200 yards then hopped into a line with those who finished. Then he went to skate.

The story of the skate park itself — one of the first in the country — starts in 1978.

That's when Joel Jackson, a parks employee, designed it. A few years earlier he saw some kids competing in a parking lot in Sulphur Springs and thought the kids near Perry Harvey would enjoy skateboarding, too.

He lobbied City Hall, and by 1979 the skate bowl was built.

His efforts were not without controversy, however. The documentary highlights the friction between the predominantly white skateboarders who showed up en masse and the mostly black residents of the housing project.

In the documentary, some skaters talk about their run-ins with local residents. Splashed throughout the film are also old pictures of the park, skate videos, and interviews with professional and amateur skate boarders who frequented the spot. A sound track featuring area bands laces the scenes together.

"It definitely is a testimonial to skateboarding to still be here," Durrett said.

Who knows how much longer the Bro Bowl will be around?

Filmmakers said they just want people to see the documentary.

"This place still is fun," Robson said, calling it cheap and effective. "It is kind of the skateboarding equivalent to a dive bar."

Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or jleone@sptimes.com.

if you go

The Bro Bowl

Check out the premiere of The Bro Bowl: 30 Years of Tampa Concrete during the pro contest at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Skatepark of Tampa, 4215 E Columbus Drive. The cost is $15 for the contest and to see the movie. Tickets are available at the skate park and skateparkoftampa.com.

To see a trailer of the documentary, go to youtube.com/watch?v=Qc4fylKVqmY

Buddies pay tribute to Bro Bowl skateboard park on film 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 12:01pm]

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