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January 07. 2013 7:33PM

Another View: Building the skate park Manchester and Adam Curtis deserve

About 10 years ago some very well-intentioned people banded together with the City of Manchester and built the city a skate park to honor a teen who was vibrant and respectful, the kind of kid all parents would be proud to call their own, yet who died tragically at a young age: Adam D. Curtis.

The skate park thrived for several years. Unfortunately, the current condition of the facility is deplorable. The Parks and Recreation Department has no money to repair or maintain it. The skate bowl area is in need of serious structural repair as the cracks, potholes and degradation regularly cause broken limbs. There are no amenities such as bathrooms or outdoor lighting for safety and security. The venue has turned into a trash pit, a graffiti eyesore that often is a nuisance to the neighborhood.

The police reports involving this facility in the last two years are extensive. It attracts too many troublemakers who care little about skating. Parents rightfully fear allowing their kids to go there.

XMVSkate.com was formed to change all that. It envisions the development of a first-class skate park facility nestled within the region's most important recreational area among Gill Stadium, JFK Coliseum, the Pony and Central Little League fields and the Hunt Pool - all about a block from the new municipal complex and police station.

After a year of study, our bottom-line finding is of strong community and user support (including from the Parks and Recreation Department) to upgrade the skate park by raising private funds and operating the venue privately. It's the McIntyre model without total dependence on favorable weather conditions.

Fundraising success will ultimately dictate the type of improvements that could be made, and the timing. Improvements might require partial financing via a membership or rental fee.

Any long-term, sustainable solution requires the incorporation of the Regis Lemire Community Center building that is a visual block from Maple Street, limiting supervision and encouraging mischief. The center could be a critical solution to fulfill the vision of a supervised skate park with revenue generation for operations and capital improvements.

Our concept is of a nonprofit organization to lease the properties from the city and operate the facility with all the added benefits such as amenities, events, rentals and concessions while striving for self-sufficiency from operating revenue, foundations and sponsors. Any upside would be shared with the Parks and Recreation Department for general park maintenance.

Most involved agree that a fully enclosed and secured skate park facility is the most desirable goal to create a first-class experience for area skaters. However, that option is the most costly, with up to a $3 million price tag. A lesser-cost scenario depicts a pole barn and fencing of an improved skate bowl area. This would still allow four-season use and would lower construction and annual operating costs, yet it would not solve the vandalism problems inherent at the skate park. Lesser upgrades like a skate bowl area makeover, or even basic repairs, have been considered but are seen as a bandage approach solving none of the supervision, seasonality and/or future sustainability issues and making it more difficult to raise money.

To advance this project, city officials and the Board of Aldermen's Land and Buildings Committee need to agree to begin negotiating a long-term lease and operating agreement for the properties with the XMVSkate entity. That would allow us to finalize project details and ramp up fundraising efforts. Encouragingly, the Tony Hawk Foundation has given initial indications of support thanks to students of SNHU's Business Department! We believe that enough user, community, corporate and foundation support exists to accomplish our goals. We'd sure like to find out.

The users of the facility deserve better, as do the memories of Adam Curtis and Regis Lemire. Skating is hugely popular and getting more popular. There are as many skateboarders, Razor scooter riders and BMX bikers in the area as those who participate in other sports and recreation, many of which have multiple and modern venues throughout Manchester.

We started one year ago, having identified an obvious need. After the November Land and Buildings Committee meeting, I received a call from a Manchester Community Television viewer who expressed genuine concern that the proposed skate park simply wouldn't be big enough to accommodate all the skaters who would want to use it. Wouldn't that be a lot better than having a run-down park that most skaters dont want to go near?

Jim DeStefano of Manchester is a commercial realtor and a parent of a skateboarder.


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