redesign on deck

By Rebecca Berfanger  //  Photography by Tony Vasquez
Skaters are stoked for Northeast Skatepark’s major revamp

Although people might know Tony Hawk today for funny viral tweets, in the pre-social media days of the 1990s, he was known for gravity-defying skateboard moves that captured the world’s attention. Decades after Hawk became a household name, the sport he made popular to a wide and diverse audience continues to attract new and old athletes alike, including throughout Johnson County and the surrounding area.

After all, the 2020 Summer Olympics, happening this summer, will be the first time the games will include skateboarding competitions. And since spring 2020, many folks, from the young to the young at heart, have been either dusting off their old boards or buying new gear to get into a fun outdoor activity.

Getting air
For local skate shops, business has been booming: Boards, wheels and other accessories have been flying off the shelves as store owners expect demand to continue locally with the soon-to-be-open Northeast Skatepark in Greenwood.

Previously used as a space for tennis courts, the equipment and surfaces of this public skatepark, owned by Greenwood Parks and Recreation, had fallen into disrepair over the years from the normal wear and tear of skaters, and Mother Nature’s wrath. Due to the cracks and equipment issues, some skaters would prefer to skate in the parking lot, or they’d make up tricks based on avoiding cracks and bumps in the skatepark.

When Parks and Recreation shared its plans with local skaters, says Executive Director Rob Taggart, skaters suggested the department do something vastly different. Instead of just replacing the current prefabricated obstacles with more of the same, which would also eventually fall into disrepair, they suggested going with something else as a more modern and skater-friendly approach: a custom-designed concrete skatepark.

Among those skaters was Paul Vandegriff, owner of Nomad Skate Shop in Greenwood. He helped bring the original skatepark to Greenwood as a teen in the early 2000s and has continued to skate there ever since.

“We don’t consider this as work, this is our passion,” Vandegriff says. “We wanted to offer a wide variety of obstacles and ramps to skate for all levels of skateboarding. A huge part of the process was being involved with the community, seeing who is coming to the park, who is utilizing what in the park, and what we can do to attract and bring in the future of skaters for Greenwood and the southside.”

Inspired design
This is what designer Christy Weezer, co-owner of Bloomington-based Hunger Skateparks with Bart Smith, lives for. Having had experience working with other design companies for skateparks and as skaters themselves — Weezer recently took up roller-skating herself — they decided to start their own design company. Once word got out, she says, “We started fielding a lot of calls about Indiana, where we’re from and where we’re rooted.”

Among those calls were smaller towns, with the first project in the Hoosier state in Peru.

“As far as design, that comes from skating at a lot of different parks, skating on different terrains, knowing what you like, knowing what works, and having the drive to see the creative potential in not just skateboarding” but also other sports on wheels. She included BMX bikers, roller skaters, roller bladers, and scooters among other potential users for the park.

She also appreciates collaborating with others to see what is unique to those who will ultimately use the parks. “Greenwood was an especially wonderful community to work with,” she says. “The community came behind it and offered a lot of opportunities for collaborations on design.”

There were several public meetings during which, Weezer says, she and others “brainstormed what were the most important things for a skatepark. Some brought drawings and designs. We picked the biggest elements jumping out across the board,” she says. “We tried to figure out how to lay out the park given the size and budget and the site.”

Open to all
Another challenge, says Taggart of Parks and Recreation, was making sure the park was inclusive to different skating abilities. “One of the things we were cognizant of was making sure it was challenging enough for seasoned skaters, while including components that a beginning skater wouldn’t be intimidated to learn from,” he says.

What they landed on included ledges and boxes and small obstacles, a double stair set, two hubbas — that is, ledges that angle down a set of stairs —and a bowl section. There was also an added challenge: The design couldn’t dig into the ground, so they could only build on top of the existing site.

Weezer, who is also a visual artist, will incorporate local flair into each of Hunger’s parks. For instance, Greenwood Skatepark will include “X” shapes to represent the logo of GWSP — short for Greenwood Skatepark crew — which Vandegriff and others with a long history with the original park call themselves.

While those outside the skating community might not realize it, skaters in central Indiana and beyond are expected to use the Greenwood space.

Nick Holub, co-owner of Minus Skate Shop, with locations in Carmel, Broad Ripple and a new one opening soon in Greenwood, said that local skaters often drive an hour or more to skateparks, noting Columbus, Indiana, and Louisville, as two popular destinations. He expects the same for Northeast Skatepark.

“Right now, skateboarding is booming. It’s the perfect time to see it as a hub for people to congregate,” says Holub. “I think it’s an awesome thing for Indiana and Greenwood to have a place where it’s something new and fresh. I think it’ll be a really good thing for everyone involved. Every time a skatepark gets built, it helps other skateparks get built.”

The Greenwood Parks and Recreation Department is also pleased with the outcome.

“It’s been a fun process,” says Taggart. “I’m not a skater myself, but I’ve learned a lot. It’s been great to get to know the skating community.”

While the official opening date was yet to be determined as of press time, it is expected this free and public space will open sometime in late spring or early summer after many months of collaboration between the city, designers and skaters.

Among the younger skaters who are excited for the new park is Jade Tutwiler, who has been skating in her neighborhood for the last couple of years, building up her basic skills, including going up on curbs.

While she never skated at the old park, Tutwiler’s face lit up when she realized the new skatepark will open shortly before she celebrates her 10th birthday this summer. What she’s looking forward to the most is “going down in a bowl and trying the ramp.”

As to why she chose skateboarding as one of her many hobbies, among soccer, gymnastics and playing piano, she says, “Because it’s fun!”

More information about Greenwood’s Northeast Skatepark is available on Hunger Skatepark’s website,