Of the thousands of shoes Nike has created over the years only one honored a skate park. • Just one pair. • Ever. • It's called the "Moat," so named for the retention ditch surrounding none other than the Skatepark of Tampa. • But finding them these days isn't easy. • Only 100 pairs were made when the shoe was released a year ago. Back then, they went for $400 and sold out in an hour. • Today, you might be able to nab them on eBay. A guy in California was trying to sell a pair recently for $100. A blog post mentioned a pair were for sale at a small shop in New York. And Flight Club Los Angeles, a shoe seller with stores in New York, has limited sizes for sale online for up to $170. • But the story of why one of the nation's most recognizable names in sports gear noticed a little skate park in Tampa is as rich as ever.
The "Moat" shoe was developed to celebrate the Skatepark of Tampa's 15th anniversary.
But back in 1993 when the facility was created, it seemed unlikely that the warehouse skate park would make it through the year. By then, the wave of popularity skateboarding had carved out in the 1980s was waning, and skateboarders grinding rails and kick-flipping down stairs were looked at as criminals defacing public property.
Professional skateboarder Brian Schaefer was 22 and wanted a cool place to hang out. So he made one by opening the Skatepark of Tampa. Sixteen years later, the glass double doors out front still are open and covered in stickers.
"When we started, we lived here," Schaefer said. "I had no idea that it would turn into a real job so to speak. It is as real as it comes."
Schaefer now employs 24 people. The brick and mortar store has expanded to include an online shop, at skateparkoftampa.com, and expanded to include another warehouse.
Over the years, the influential skate shop established some of the sport's biggest and most popular tournaments including the Tampa Pro and Damn Am contests.
It was during one of the contests where the legend of the moat emerged during the first "moat race" where spectators swam the mucky retention pond that surrounds the skate park in hopes of winning skateboard merchandise.
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Nick Halkias works for Nike SB and collaborated with Barak Wiser from the SPoT to design the shoe in about six months. The colors and imagery on the Moat — more formally called the Nike "Dunk Mid SB" — were inspired by a large turtle that used to live in the moat. The shoe has a turtle print and coating that looks like the floating muck in the retention pond. It also features the SPoT's red and black theme colors and a turtle shell around the ankle with yellow and green turtle shell art.
Called a "hype shoe," the Moat was a limited edition, quick release shoe with a unique story that could help sell it. Nike has created other "hype" shoes with musical artists De La Soul and Dinosaur Jr.
"It is a real honor to do something fun like that for the brand and for everyone who works there (at the SPoT)," Halkias said. "It is a piece of our culture in the industry. Skatepark of Tampa started at a time when skateboarding was considered dead."
The 21st century saw the rise again in skateboarding's popularity. ESPN's X-Games and the first Tony Hawk video games both featured the sport.
Then came Nike.
The company famous for its basketball shoes and a "Just do it" attitude was looked at with wanton eyes when it entered the skateboarding arena.
Nike blitzed skate magazines and television with advertisements featuring tennis players and other athletes hopping fences to use sports facilities. The ads asked, "What if we treated all athletes like we treat skateboarders?"
The campaign was funny, but did little to move shoes, so the company retooled, bringing in well-known skateboarders to help. It also forged partnerships with skate shops and other businesses, such as the Skatepark of Tampa.
A few years ago the SPoT was looking for a sponsor for its Tampa Pro contest. Schaefer said they wanted to make the contest bigger and needed a major sponsor to get involved. Eventually, they inked a deal with Nike SB and a couple of years later the shoemaker created the Moat.
These days many skateboarders nationwide are shod in a pair of Nike SB shoes, a popularity that company officials attribute largely to its partnership with the SPoT and others like it. They are the most popular line of shoes at the SPoT, Schaefer said.
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 269-5314 or [email protected]