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Clearwater sizes up skate park plans

Before building the park on a leased site, the city wants to ensure that the equipment could be moved should SPJC terminate the lease.

Skateboarders often careen across the handicapped-access ramps and stairs at City Hall and other places downtown. Complaints from city officials and business owners usually follow.

So now the city is planning to build a skate park and roller-hockey rink to give local skating daredevils a place to enjoy their sports of choice.

Clearwater regularly receives requests to establish such a facility, said Kevin Dunbar, the city's parks and recreation administrator. And the calls picked up after Dunedin opened Stirling Skate Park this month with the help of a $100,000 state grant.

"There really aren't a lot of other places where they can go," Dunbar said.

In Clearwater, the skate project has been on the drawing board for more than a year while the city considered where to put it. Under the latest plans, Clearwater will complete its new park by the end of next year, Dunbar said.

The proposed site for the city's skate park is on the west side of the former St. Petersburg Junior College gymnasium on Drew Street, a few blocks west of U.S. 19.

The city recently leased the 5-acre property from SPJC. For the next four years, the city plans to manage the wood-floor gym there as a venue for city league sports such as adult basketball and volleyball. The city is seeking players to join the new leagues.

Adjacent tennis courts are planned to become the foundation of the skate park. Dunbar said the city has $194,000 budgeted to buy equipment for the roller-hockey rink and ramps and rails for the skate park. A new city hockey league would be started.

But before the plans can be finalized, Dunbar said, the city has to make sure that it can build the park in such a way that its equipment can be removed if necessary. That's because SPJC could terminate the city's lease of the field house property in four years.

The city would rather acquire the land from SPJC permanently, Dunbar said. Then the city would make further enhancements to the skate park, such as putting a roof over it.

The city probably would charge $2 to $5 for access to the park in sessions lasting several hours at a time. Participants would have to sign waivers freeing the city of responsibility for injuries. Helmets, knee pads and elbow pads would be required.

As the city moves along with the design of the park, officials likely will hold a few small meetings with youths and families who want to use the park, Dunbar said, to make sure the proposed equipment meets their desires.