Expansion of Centennial Skate Park adds new features; local skaters hope to see more improvements

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

A crew from Evergreen Skateparks works on the Centennial Skate Park on Dec. 10, 2021, which is located on the west side of Centennial Park, 600 Rockledge Road.

The cement is almost dry on an expansion of the Centennial Skate Park that local skaters hope will lead to even more improvements.

The approximately $50,000 Parks and Recreation project expands the overall size of the skate park, adding about a dozen new features to replace an aging ramp that has to be removed. The project was done in coordination with the Lawrence Skaters Association, which gave input on the design and helped raise about $8,000 to support the project.

LSA member Nicholas Ward said the expansion adds some smaller obstacles that are more universal and usable by the growing user base of the park as well as beginning skateboarders.

“We were missing some of these elements that are only like 6 to 8 inches tall,” Ward said. “So if you are someone just starting out, it’s very intimidating to skate those things, so I think these obstacles will be a lot less intimidating.”

Parks and Rec Director Derek Rogers said that the park gets good use. Rogers said he’d visited the park on the weekend and seen parents with their young kids and older people on roller skates, and that he saw it as a community asset.

The city contracted with Oregon-based Evergreen Skateparks for the project, which began about 10 days ago and will be completed on Saturday. Ben Hlavacek, of Evergreen Skateparks, was among those putting finishing touches on the park on Friday. Hlavacek, who grew up in Wichita, said Lawrence has always had a strong community of skaters, and he remembers people coming up to Lawrence to skate because it had one of the few parks with lights. He said he hoped to see parks in Lawrence continue to grow.

“It’s always had a strong community of cool people, so it was always a welcoming place for people outside of town to come to,” Hlavacek said. “It’s always just been really crucial to the broader community.”

The LSA and the Parks and Rec Department have been at odds in the past, as the city took down a do-it-yourself skate park in 2016 that was built in the woods, as the Journal-World reported at the time. Since then, LSA and the city have collaborated on a DIY skate park at Edgewood Park that was completed in 2018.

Ward said that the relationship with Parks and Rec has gone from one that was a bit adversarial to one of mutual respect. He said he thought the collaboration with the city on the most recent project at Centennial Park has been a beneficial way of making sure the city has better outdoor amenities and that those who know about skating inform what gets constructed.

The skate park originally opened in 1998 with eight features, and underwent a redesign in 2012, according to the city’s website. The 2012 project replaced about half of the original surface of the skate park, and LSA member Justin Shiney said a longtime goal has been to rebuild the park so that it’s as large as its original footprint.

Shiney said the features and obstacles added to the park include an A-frame, up-down hubbas and an up-down rail. He said the expansion helps meet the growing demand on the park and works toward the ultimate goal of the park’s broader expansion.

“This park gets a lot of use,” Shiney said. “It’s always crowded, so expanding it really helps with all those things.”

Ward, noting the recent inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics, said the use of the park has been increasing as roller-skating has seen a resurgence in popularity and more girls and women are skating.

“It’s a good idea to have places where this is sanctioned, so increasing the square footage just makes sense,” Ward said.

Ward said the design of the recent project anticipates the future addition planned for the park. That project is estimated to cost $150,000 and is currently scheduled for 2026 in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Shiney said the hope was that LSA could help get the larger expansion of the park done sooner than currently planned.

“This right now is just getting us one step closer,” Shiney said.


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