So I posted a petition on the site about a week or so ago in my last Terribleco update – if you haven’t signed it then GET ON IT! I said I’d give more information about the whole thing, so here’s the first part of many editorials (depending on how quickly this thing actually moves) detailing the whole deal with skateparks in Coventry and what exactly is wrong with the council’s treatment of such facilities.

Now if you don’t skate, BMX or rollerblade, you’re probably sitting there thinking “Right, I don’t see what the problem is, there are 5 skateparks in Coventry, surely there’s no problem here?”. Well, you’re partly right. The council have thus far been extremely generous in the amount of parks they’ve given skateboarders in the city, but I’ve always been a firm believer in “quality not quantity”, and there are some severe design flaws with the skateparks we have in Coventry.

First of all, the council have actually got it right by contracting bendcrete to make most of the parks we have. Bendcrete have some fairly good and respectable parks in their portfolio, and they offer a wide variety of build styles. They’re good with concrete and have proved it with Holbrooks bowls, which is probably the best park we have (but more on why that park isn’t satisfactory later) – it’s a fast, fun skatepark. The main problem has been the council’s approach to skatepark design. I’m not sure whether there’s been a lack of communication between the user group and the council (as far as I know Jim T Skin has had some kind of input into every park in the city, but I’ve also heard rumours of the council overruling certain design aspects in order to cut corners with the budget for each skatepark), but this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed if and when the council decide to foot the bill for a new park.

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The main reason why most of these skateparks are “badly designed” is that the layout of obstacles within the skatepark isn’t necessarily new or inventive. The skateparks we have are usually made up of basic “building blocks” that you can probably find in any skatepark inbetween here and Austrailia. Memorial Park’s skatepark has a fairly standard layout which is fun, but loses it’s appeal very quickly simply because you can skate any of the obstacles there at a skatepark 5 minutes down the road. It’s a skatepark made of “common” obstacles, with nothing to bring visitors back, and a layout that becomes stale and uninteresting if you skate there regularly. The skatepark in Wyken, often referred to as the “annex”, has the same problem, but comes off worse because there are literally 3, maybe 4 lines, in the whole park, and that’s me being inventive/kind.

Then you have issues with build quality, which is another kettle of fish. Longford skatepark has possibly the worst build quality of any park in Coventry – the bowled corner at the end of the park goes over-vert because the coping wasn’t put in properly, and then the rail on the funbox is too high to actually skate properly with the funbox it’s attached to. Then you’ve got poor build quality of things like the 4 ft hips at Memorial Park, where concrete has just been mushed together to join the quarter to the flatbank, as well as the mini ramp sinking into the ground last winter. Alan Higgs skatepark has issues as well, with a funbox that is extremely difficult to actually do tricks on, and flaws in the design where the bowls have way too much space between ramps meaning you lose a lot of speed and there’s a lot of “dead time” between tricks.

The way Holbrooks bowls stands out above this is that bowls by their very nature have hundreds of lines and have a very raw element of speed in their very design which makes them fun to come back to. Not only is the design fairly sound (the deep end of the bowl suffers from the “dead time” problem that Alan Higgs has), but the build quality is excellent – apart from the damage caused by kids driving cars into the deep end. Any damage that has been caused has now been repaired by the council after emails of complaint were sent to them about the safety of the skatepark. It’s now a regularly maintained facility and is better because of it.

Now I’m not saying that by building a single bowl and maintaining it, the council have redeemed themselves and suddenly they’re experts in skatepark design and building. Infact, there are problems with Holbrooks bowls which are nothing to do with the design or build quality (as I mentioned in the last paragraph). This article details the conflict between actual skatepark users and kids who are just out to make trouble on the day when Holbrooks bowls were opened. I mean, it’s next to a notoriously bad council estate, where the people living there seem to have an intolerance for skateboarders – this isn’t necessarily the council’s fault, as it’s a group of genuinely good people in the Holbrooks community who helped get the cash for the skatepark. However, the general problem with councils in this country is that whenever there’s a bad area of the city, their first answer is to put a skatepark there to “rejuvenate” the area.

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The skatepark design on the right is for Southglade Skatepark, in an area of Nottingham called Top Valley. Now, I’m not going to lie, it’s amazing. It’s a really fun, fast skatepark, with plenty of lines all over the place. This is the kind of thing that I think would be awesome to have in Coventry. However, it has it’s problems. Top Valley is another notoriously bad council estate, and it’s actually much worse than the council estate that neighbours Holbrooks bowls. The council have thrown money at the skatepark, it’s been built, and now it’s getting damaged by kids who don’t actually skate, and the intended user group get assaulted verbally and physically whenever they go there. If Coventry City Council are to learn anything from this article, it should be that SKATEPARKS ARE NOT PLAYGROUNDS FOR TEENAGERS – they are for skateboarding, BMXing and rollerblading, and in many cases the people who partake in such activities are usually fully grown adults who do not appreciate getting attacked by kids from council estates.

If I were to say what were the two biggest problems with skateparks in Coventry, I’d have to say that it’s the design and the placement of them. I think in order to improve designs on any future projects, the council really need to have regular meetings with the usergroup, and this idea works both ways, the usergroup have to pester the council in order to make sure that the skatepark is up to the proper standards. In terms of placement, the council need to stop saying “We can get more money if we put the skatepark in an ‘underprivileged’ area” and start saying “Will ‘underprivileged’ individuals be the kind of people who are actually into skateboarding?” (I think you’ll find that usually the answer is “No”). Memorial Park was a great place to put a skatepark, and is thus far the only place in Coventry which isn’t ‘underprivileged’ to get a skatepark. It’s heavily used all year round, with about 40 people using the skatepark in a single afternoon in the middle of summer (which, believe it or not, is about the same number of people using the extremely popular “Saffron Walden” skatepark in Essex – depicted below – on a similar type of day).

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As a final word of warning – in order to get any kind of change to the situation in Coventry people are going to need to actually do some work. I’m talking emails to the council, working to get petitions signed (HINT HINT), helping out with fundraising ideas, putting forward MEANINGFUL ideas for the design of the park and generally getting involved so the council don’t dump another Longford skatepark onto us.