If all goes according to plan, by this time next year, Brandon, Apollo Beach and Northwest Tampa skaters will soon have their own skate parks.
Representatives from Hillsborough County's Parks, Recreation and Conservation department shared building plans for the parks at a March 25 community meeting in Brandon. About 25 residents, among them several local skaters who have long requested a skate park in eastern Hillsborough, attended the meeting.
Each new skate park will have a $500,000 budget to build a concrete facility of at least 10,000 square feet, county officials said.
In Brandon, county officials plan to revamp the Providence East Park on Providence Road just north of Bloomingdale Avenue. Youth football leagues occasionally practice at the park, which sits across the street from Providence West Recreation Center.
Plans call for refurbishing the park's existing clubhouse, possibly adding a pro shop; removing the playground; and constructing the skate park. Officials said they also would like to install fencing for safety and to regulate the park's operating hours. Employees will staff the park, which will be open weekdays after school and on weekends, said Mark Thornton, the county's director of Parks and Recreation.
"The clubhouse or maybe pro shop will be the control point and the entrance," Thornton said. "We're looking into consolidating both Providence parks and moving all of the football to Providence West."
County officials said they chose Providence Park East because of its proximity to major thoroughfares. They also said the area's parks could use some rejuvenation.
"It will help bring life to the park with its new facilities," said parks department spokesman John Brill. "It's also a valid form of recreation that we currently do not provide, and this would bring a controlled and approved spot for this activity."
In Apollo Beach, skaters will get a park at the Apollo Beach Recreation Center at 664 Golf and Sea Blvd., county officials said.
A location for a skate park in Northwest Tampa has not yet been selected, parks officials said.
The county plans to meet with the community again, work over ideas and hopefully break ground on all three parks by October or November. If weather permits, they hope to have the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the parks in the spring, Brill said.
Once the parks open, visitors will pay a fee to enter. Officials also are considering requiring skaters under 18 to wear a helmet. As is common at most skate parks, all visitors will have to sign an injury waiver before they can skate, Thornton said.
Last week's community meeting attracted a handful of teen skaters, a skate shop manager, some older skate and bike hobbyists and concerned neighbors of Providence Park.
Michelle McCoy, who lives near the park, voiced a litany of concerns ranging from how the county would fund the skate parks to the possibility of crime at the new facility.
Thornton said funds for the parks will come from the county's community improvement taxes.
"My 15-year-old son skates, and it's never just a hangout at these parks," Thornton said. "There is staff."
Park grounds also get support from sheriff's deputies, Brill said.
Doug Chancy, a manager at Cove Skate and Surf in Brandon, said skate parks can actually help decrease crime.
"Look at Burnside," Chancy said. "Skaters poured concrete where (the homeless) used to reside."
Mike Wuertz, a freestyle BMX rider from Temple Terrace, agreed.
"The skate park in Dunedin drew national attention at one of their competitions," said Wuertz, who asked that the park include days for bike riders.
Thornton promised to attempt to address everyone's issues. He said his team plans to incorporate the skaters' ideas into the parks' designs.
He hopes to have a fee option available so enthusiasts can go from one skate park to the next for different experiences. Thornton also hopes to offer a pay-as-you-go option. Fees and exact hours of operation have not yet been determined.
Traci Rader can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.