Raf Sogo, jaw clenched, clutched his skateboard as he steeled himself and walked toward the dozens of people crowded in the far north end of Perry Harvey Sr. Park on Saturday afternoon.
When he got close to the brand-new skate park, his jaw relaxed and his mouth hung open.
"It looks just like the old bowl," he said with a gasp. "I can't believe it."
Sogo, 21, of Tampa wasn't sure he would ever see the curvature and hills of that massive cement bowl again — not since the original Bro Bowl skate park built in 1978 was torn down last year.
While the city had a planned replica, Sogo, like many other skaters, was skeptical it would work out. They worried that Tampa would lose a skate circuit icon after years of back and forth about its future.
But those fears evaporated when Mayor Bob Buckhorn cut the ribbon of the park — called "Bro Bowl 2.0'' by many — and opened it to the public.
To put it simply, Tampa Bay skaters are stoked.
And the mayor was ready to get in on the action. Minutes after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Buckhorn laid down on the concrete so a local 23-year-old skater could leap over him on a board. When Derick Glancy flew over the mayor and landed his ollie effortlessly to cheers, emcee Brian Schaefer said the park was officially open.
"Let's skate!" Schaefer yelled to the crowd, which responded in a mix of applause and clapping their skateboards to the ground.
"I'm alive," Buckhorn joked after the stunt.
It had been a long journey to the moment Buckhorn could open the park, he admitted.
The bowl's original location was right in the middle of an area with historic roots to the African-American community's business and cultural tradition in Tampa. City officials have long preferred to make the park a place to honor that history and relocate the bowl. The project took a decade.
The bowl was laser-scanned so the replica would be exact. Buckhorn said Saturday that he was thankful to preserve it.
Before local skaters knew the bowl would be recreated, they campaigned to keep it from being torn down. In 2013, it became the first skate park to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The park is north of its original site, but it has a new street course and original pieces of the bowl, covered in graffiti, in the center to pay homage to its predecessor.
"This is a great day, to see these kids around here, generations of people who skated in the bowl now have a magnificent skate park that's free to the public," Buckhorn said. "We're going to grow a new generation of skaters."
Ryan Denis, 9, of New Port Richey came out for the grand-opening with his dad, who used to shred in the old bowl. He said his father told him about his days skating in Tampa, and he was glad to be able to experience it himself.
"Usually I skate at my house," he said, wearing a blue helmet with a Mohawk running down the center.
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He was able to skate along the edge of the smooth bowl's rim — his biggest accomplishment of the day.
For Sogo, Saturday was like coming home.
"Me and a crew of friends, we pretty much lived here," he said referring to the old skate park.
He smiled before he took his board for his first run on new concrete.
Contact Sara DiNatale at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.