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February 26. 2012 8:43PM

New vision for skate park: Businessman proposes leasing park from city and turning it into an indoor nonprofit


Tony Beltrane, 16, right, gets some speed up on his scooter, at the Adam D. Curtis Skate Park in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

WHEN LOCAL businessman James DeStefano took his son to the Adam Curtis Skate Park, he noticed the condition of the facility, that many other kids didn't wear helmets or pads and there was no one there supervising.

He saw in the park an opportunity to make it something better, and on Tuesday DeStefano got the go-ahead from the aldermen to look into leasing the park from the city to turn it into a nonprofit, indoor skate park.

For more than a decade, the park has been a free place for young people to congregate and try out new stunts on their skateboards, bikes and scooters.

But the park has also attracted bullies who intimidate other children, drug use and fighting, said Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division Director Peter Capano.

“It's kind of hidden and is not visible to the traveling public or policemen as they drive by. There's been some problems down there,” said Capano. The ramps are also in need of repair, he said.

“Our reaction was much like you saw (from the aldermen),” he said. “Folks were saying, ‘Yeah, let's hear more. It's worth pursuing potentially.”

The proposed facility is in the conceptual stages, and DeStefano approached the aldermen to see if they were interested in his moving forward. The initial plan is to enclose the 30,000-square-foot park within a building, which would include equipment rentals and concessions.

DeStefano wants to repair the existing skating surface and possibly use the space to rent out for events or birthday parties.

“My son is a skateboard enthusiast. We've been to pretty much every outdoor and indoor skate venue in the state,” said DeStefano. “We've spent some time in Rye at the Rye Airfield (skate park). It's a different facility but nonetheless an enclosed facility, well run and secure and has a lot of the components that I hope to replicate in Manchester.”

This includes supervision and requiring safety equipment. Helmets and pads would be a must, and these would be available for rent.

“There is no safety component to the existing facility,” said DeStefano. “Formalizing and supervising, requiring kids to wear helmets — that would be better for everyone.”

What would be different, however, is the cost. While the Rye Airfield charges $10 for a three-hour session and $25 per day, DeStefano envisions a membership system similar to the one used by the fitness center company, Planet Fitness. By having many members, DeStefano hopes to create memberships at around $10 per month.

“Now we're meeting with financiers, investors and community leaders, finalizing a business plan and formalizing the entity,” said DeStefano. “Once that happens, we'll be able to ramp up the due diligence and make sure this model would work.”

DeStefano said if all goes smoothly, he hopes to have the new park open in 2013.


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