Apparently, skateboarders in Lawrence can grind the same rails only so long.
After years of prodding and fundraising from a small but dedicated group of Lawrence skateboarders, the city finally approved Tuesday funding for additions to the skateboard course at Centennial Park.
"These kids have been riding the same stuff their whole lives," Justin Shiney said. "It's time to switch it up a little."
In the just-approved city budget, the Parks and Recreation Department will get $50,000 to add on to the skate park, giving local skateboarders, rollerbladers and some risk-taking BMX bike riders new fodder for their scabbed elbows and momentary glory.
But it wasn't without years' worth of work for Shiney and a group of four or five other local skaters.
To hear Shiney tell it, it's a story of lost hope and sudden life for the project.
About three years ago, Shiney and others began chatting about local skate parks - what they had and what they needed - while sitting around the old Let It Ride shop on the corner of Seventh and New Hampshire streets.
"It was way back before any of the Kansas City parks had a bowl," Shiney said.
Soon, the group began attending City Commission meetings to ask leaders for funding.
"They were all very supportive," Shiney said of the commission. But still, the skaters saw no real action from those with the power to help fund an addition, likely a bowl - a kind of smoothed-out, skater-friendly replica of the drained swimming pools that helped give birth to skateboarding decades ago.
The group even held benefits for the project, including a concert and an art show. In all, the group raised about $2,500, Shiney said, money that still sits in a bank account ready to be put toward "just whatever it needs to go to."
But unlike the city-skateboarder collaboration that successfully built the Centennial Park course back in 1998, the effort slowed to a crawl, Shiney said.
Whether it was because of the skaters' lack of organization or the money the city poured into the prefabricated ramps at Deerfield School, city staff said no to funding back in 2004, and the skateboarders stopped asking soon after.
Meanwhile, bigger and better skate parks kept popping up in Kansas City and Topeka, luring local skaters and touring professionals away from the area.
Former Lawrence skate park builder Joel Smith said at the time that he was frustrated with the process.
"When they put that stuff at Deerfield Park, we went and looked at it and I called back and complained," Smith said. "In the skateboard culture, we consider that stuff garbage. It's just companies ripping off Parks and Rec departments all over the country."
For the past year or so - since a big push in 2004 - everyone pretty much stopped trying.
But City Commissioner Boog Highberger said he had kept the project in mind, even hoping to fund a new bowl last year.
"It's something that's had broad support," Highberger said of the project. "But there were too many projects, not enough money."
But this year, when it began to look like the city could afford the project, Highberger called Shiney and told him the news.
Shiney, taken aback, was all for it.
"I guess we better start doing something again," he said about his thoughts at the time.
That was earlier this summer. Now, with the budget just a few steps away from finalization, Shiney said he's looking forward to working with the city to put the project in place.
Fred DeVictor, Lawrence Parks and Recreation director, said the money - part of a larger bond project to improve parks all around Lawrence - was still a ways away.
As for what will actually be built - likely a bowl - the city still has to discuss the project and take any proposals before city commissioners, DeVictor said.
"We'd have to do some homework and learn more about it," he said.
That process will likely include working again with Shiney and other local skaters to get a feel for what would work best at the park, DeVictor said.
For Shiney, that choice is easy. A bowl - something that will give local skaters and rollerbladers something new to master.
Design for bowl
Shiney has been talking with builders from St. Louis, tossing around ideas for what the project should look like.
Multiple depths, he said. Maybe a clover-leaf shape. Lots of places to drop in from, enough room to get some good speed going.
"It would be an unbelievable level of knowledge for kids around here," Shiney said. In a Mark Twain-ish moment, he continued: "It's the difference between bumper cars and a roller coaster."
Smith agreed, saying it would pump new life into the nearly 10-year-old park.
"It's super exciting for me," he said. "If there was a new bowl there, I'd be there every day again."
Out at the park last week, 15-year-old Shilo Thompson rolled from the stair set near the park's entrance to the mini-pipe and back, trying trick after trick along the way.
Thompson imagined that a bowl in the park would bring more skaters there from all over the area - and would give locals a much different experience.
"With a bowl, you don't really have to get out, you just get speed around the circle," Thompson explained. "It would be way better."