Jeff Santee practiced his nosegrinds, ollies and kickflips at the Bayhead Action Park as the morning rush hour traffic whizzed down Seminole Boulevard.
After rolling back and forth on the quarter-pipe, the 25-year-old took a breather.
"What's great about this place is that it has so many cool parts," Santee said. "Like there's that round shape I call the rainbow rail, and they've even got a dry swimming pool you can keep rolling up and down in. It's like they do in Cali.''
Santee is one of dozens of skateboard enthusiasts who have given the new Bayhead Action Park a ride since the city opened it Thursday. The new 7,000-square-foot facility for skateboards and freestyle bikes is at the Bayhead Complex across Seminole Boulevard from Largo Central Park.
The roughly $160,000 project has a 7-foot-deep pool, dubbed "the bowl,'' at one end, while at the other end is the 4-foot-deep "half-bowl.'' In between there are ramps, pipes and a "street section" with rails, steps and a grind box (a ledge for jumping).
Several months in the making, the new park replaces Largo's original skate park next to Highland Aquatic Center. That park, built in 2003, included 10 modular pieces that were put in storage during construction of the new Highland Recreation Complex. The original plan was to reassemble the pieces at the new site, but once Misiano Skateparks began construction, the city realized having a concrete structure would be sturdier and more cost-effective in the long run, said Greg Brown, Largo's parks superintendent.
"We plan to still use some of the pieces from the old one at Southwest Recreation someday,'' he said.
The park is free and open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. However, unlike the old facility, there will be no city employees monitoring activity.
"We have security cameras and signs listing rules and recommendations,'' Brown said. "We hope that people follow the signs and wear helmets. I hope that the people who use the park take care of the park and appreciate the investment the city has made.''
Back at the park, Santee said that although he'll respect the property, he can't promise he'll arrive with a helmet.
"I wouldn't be out here if someone was watching me and telling me when to put a helmet on,'' he said. "But that doesn't mean that people shouldn't be careful. My advice is this: Come out early, because it has been crowded every night since it opened, and do things at your skill level.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.