Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Council says yes to skate design

by Lisa Seiser

May 26, 2011

For months, local skaters and BMXers have been attending city meetings and voicing their opinions when asked.

On Monday night, their patience and involvement was rewarded when members of the City Council voted 5-3 to spend $30,000 for a design and engineering services for a new skate park. The design cost is a portion of what Park Board members have estimated to be about a $250,000 to $350,000 facility.

According to Mike McIntyre of Action Sports Design, the firm that will come up with the detailed design for a park, community and user involvement is just beginning.

McIntyre talked about the possibility of an urban plaza type skate park, which would mimic downtown type of construction, but be an aesthetically pleasing park. He talked about concrete bowls that look like empty swimming pools, making the park be spectator friendly and creating something for all ages and skill levels.

“We are not here to tell you what you need,” McIntyre said about the design. “We are here to find out what you need.”

The city’s Park Board has been discussing building a new skate park for a couple years. There is $550,000 in the city’s Tax Incremental Financing District project fund for a new facility. The tax money is already collected to the tune of more than $6 million right now.

McIntyre commended the Park Board and council for their slow movement on the project.

“What you are not doing is saying go ahead and build this,” he said. “We know we can do all the construction costs, go through the process, where we hear everyone’s opinion. Maybe you decide you don’t want a skate park, but maybe you want a park people can legally skate in.”

Alderman Tom Hartz, who voted in favor of the design phase along with Al Kupsik, Todd Krause, Bill Mott and Ellyn Kehoe, asked McIntyre if he had ideas how to resolve some of the problems that have arisen with the current skate park, including maintenance and management.

McIntyre said the concrete bowls have a 20 to 30 year life span with minimal maintenance. Regarding the management aspect, the design will include discussions about sight lines from the road, styles of the park and a park that is spectator friendly.

“We pride ourselves in going through a consensus for the users through community workshops,” McIntyre said. “We want to find a signature for the Lake Geneva park. We design for the community, not what we have in the warehouse or what we’ve done somewhere else.”

Hartz said the number of kids using the existing park has increased over the years and building something new and better could bring even more kids to the park.

“If we build something with more thought, we really open a door for young people to get away from the computer and television and do things individually,” he said. “Not everything is an organized sport.”

But, Alderwoman Arleen Krohn, who voted against the park along with Alderman Frank Marsala and Terry O’Neill, said everyone she talked to in her district is against the park. She and Marsala suggested using some money to make repairs to the current park. Marsala called the skate park “unnecessary spending.”

Former alderman Dick Peterson, who lives in Burlington but works in the city, told the council members they wouldn’t be spending the taxpayers’ money wisely by building a new skate park. Peterson said when he was still an alderman in 2001, the city was in “excellent financial shape.”

“Now they do things differently, shuffle the money around and put in an IOU,” he said. “It’s like a scam.”

Another former alderman, Pete Peterson, said the city should have learned from its first skate park mistake. He said the city spent more than $300,000 on the facility and that the Park Board said it would be supervised. Peterson said that didn’t happen.

“This is not your money, it’s the people’s money,” Peterson said. “That seems to be a problem down here. Just because we have the money doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”

Kupsik said later during the meeting the first skate park cost the city about $125,000 and added there was no opportunity for involvement in the design or engineering at that time. He also said it was placed at Dunn Field because that park wasn’t being used as much as city officials thought it should.

Krause said criticizing the current park is “not fair.”

“We are talking about what a council did years ago with no sight,” Krause said. “What we are looking at now is a whole new concept. There are some great possibilities for this community, the whole community. But we have to be willing to look at it.”

BMXer Ryan Harris and Badger High School teacher Craig Olson, who appeared with his son, spoke in favor of the constructing a new skate park.

Park Board Chairman Doug Skates said the comments he heard made for good conversation, but also said per square foot, the skate park is the most heavily used park in the city of Lake Geneva.

“It is a small area that is used by a lot of kids,” he said. “This is a park. This has nothing to do with hobbies or a sport. The skate park fills a void in the community. This gets them off the streets to enjoy a sport together.”

Mott said he had received calls with about half in favor and half against the skate park. He said he remains concerned about supervision, management and maintenance.

“When we come to the vote the next time around, we will have the concept and what it will look like,” Mott said. “We need to have all that information about how it will be supervised and maintenance. I need to know those figures. If we don’t have those, don’t count on my vote down the line.”