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Skateboarding ban won't be lifted for X Trials

The last time ESPN's X Trials came to town, downtown businesses complained about hordes of skateboarders inflicting thousands of dollars in damage by gouging staircases and railings.

This time, police are warning that they will enforce the downtown skateboarding ban.

"We're not trying to squash the X Games," said police spokesman Rick Stelljes. "We just want to make sure everybody understands that our officers will be out in force. We're trying to keep the damage down."

The X Trials, which run all weekend on and around The Pier, are part of ESPN's X Games: skateboarding, inline skating and bike stunts. The event brings in hundreds of athletes, thousands of visitors and countless skateboards.

But skateboarding downtown has been illegal for eight years. The city forbids it in the area between Fifth avenues N and S, Tampa Bay and 16th Street. Violators get a $30 ticket.

City leaders created the rule after skateboarders were accused of damaging property, including gouging Italian marble planters at what was then Barnett Tower.

When the X Trials came two years ago, the St. Petersburg City Council debated but agreed to temporarily relax the no-skateboarding rule to be hospitable.

The result: Some business owners at the east end of downtown near Spa Beach reported that hundreds of local skateboarders left behind cracked tiles, chipped cement and scraped handrails.

At least two office buildings _ City Center at 100 Second Ave. S and Plaza Towers at 111 Second Ave. NE _ reported thousands of dollars in damage.

This time, the City Council didn't relax the rule.

"All the business owners don't want their property damaged," said police spokesman Dan Bates.

"If you go to the baseball game, you can't bring your own ball and bat and hit it around. So don't use your skateboards downtown."