How to Design a Skate Park


Every skater's dream: a park in their own town. It can be reality if you take on the project of designing and building a skate park yourself. If you've got a plot of land you can use, start designing. It will take time and require some homework, but having a park to skate, practically in your own back yard? Definitely worth it.

Things You'll Need

  • Long (100') measuring tape
  • Computer or graph paper/pen
  • Phone
  • Decide on your funding. Are you paying for it yourself? Will it be a for-profit park with investors? Or is it a non-for-profit site relying on donations or government funding? You may be able to get grants or tax credits if it is a non-profit site. Figure out how you are going to get funding (there can be different sources) and what your budget will be. The cost for a skatepark can range from $30,000 to way over $100,000.

  • Decide on your style. Is your park going to be more street style, vertical style or a combination of the two? Are you gearing toward beginners, intermediate or advanced skaters?

  • Check out your plot on which the skate park will be built. Are there any natural gradients that will easily form part of a bowl or a ramp? Is the plot flat or will it need backfilling or grading? Are there already elements there (concrete pads, sidewalks) that you can use as part of the park?

  • Check out insurance options. You probably need insurance and sometimes insurance companies have restrictions about the type of material you can use or certain specifications for ramps, rails, etc. So before you go any further into your design, talk to your insurance representative and find out what their requirements are, if any.

  • Research your options for material. Will you do an all-inclusive asphalt or concrete park with the ramps built into the actual site? Or are you going simpler with an asphalt or concrete pad and free-standing ramps and rails affixed to your site? If your ramps will be free-standing, will you use wooden, metal or a plastic composite material? Will you be building them yourself, having them custom made, or ordering from a prefabricated ramp company? The cheapest option (if that's important for you) is an asphalt pad with wooden ramps you build yourself. But wood will not last as long as concrete or metal ramps. Some skaters prefer certain materials over others. Your budget, your insurance requirement and your style will steer you toward a material preference.

  • Decide on your most important elements. Usually designing is not a problem of coming up with something, but of choosing the best elements out of all the possibilities. You can't have everything cool that you want in one skate park, so you'll have to choose what is most important and what is possible. For example, if you want to have a full bowl, do you really have room for a half pipe too? Maybe you do, but if you're starting on a smaller site or a limited budget, you will probably have to pick one over the other. So out of all your possible skate elements, choose the ones that are most important to have.

  • Get the measurements on those elements and on your skate park site. It's important that you be accurate, so get help if you need it or are not sure how to measure. With rails and fun boxes, be sure you also measure at least a one foot padding around the actual element, as skaters will need at least that much room when using the rail or box. Check into zoning rules for your area. You may have an easement on your property (public drainage or land between sites) that you are not allowed to build on. Be sure you know exactly how much room you really have.

  • Set up a lay out to scale on paper or computer. If you're handy with a graphics program, the computer will be easiest, but if computers make you itchy then you should stick to graph paper and cut-outs. Draw, on your paper or your program, an outline of your site. Then create boxes on your computer or cut out pieces of paper to represent your elements. The elements and the site outline need to be to an accurate scale. Drag and drop the elements on the outline to get an idea of how everything will fit in. Play around with it. What works and what doesn't? Will everything fit in and still give room for people to walk around the edges? What about traffic flow? Do you have points of exit from two ramps running into each other? Think about how people will skate the park and if the flow makes sense.

  • Using your lay out, rearrange until you get a design that makes sense. Be sure to consider non-skating elements as well, such as lighting, fencing, parking, seating and a concession area. You may not have all those things, but be sure you think through what you do have and give it enough space.

  • Get someone else to look over your design. If you know a landscape designer, architect or contracter, they will have enough understanding of basic design and structure interaction to give you a good opinion on what you're doing. Of course, it never hurts to make some phone calls and see if you can talk to a real skate park designer or owner, so give it a try. People are usually willing to help in the cause. Just be sure to be respectful of their time, have your stuff prepared and offer sincere thanks.

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