Text and Photos by Xavier Lannes
The city of Los Angeles and Rob Dyrdek and are hand in hand in providing Angelinos skateboarders with a place where they can ride challenging obstacles without supposedly getting chased away by the police.
Dyrdek, the pro skateboarder and MTV star, unveiled a $350,000 skate park on December 20, 2009 that is the latest in his Safe Spot, Skate Spot program. The skate park is located at 415 South Saint Louis Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033, only 3 miles away (if you take 1st street) from the much bigger Belvedere Skatepark (a 5mn drive), but that means a lot to the kids of East L.A. that live on the other side of the 710 freeway and that cannot afford to pay the bus fare. The park looks fabulous. Although technically embedded downtown the sprawling city of Los Angeles, it is located close to a big lake, on top of the Hollenbeck Hill, adjacent to the Hollywood and the 5 freeways, and surrounded by eucalyptus, palms and lots of other trees. Contrary to other skate park and probably because it is a skate plaza, there is no fence surrounding it and it feels less like “animals in the zoo” when you’re in there. From the park, there is a magnificent view of downtown towers and the San Gabriel Mountains (35 miles away and covered by snow in this current season). And that recent park is not the end of it: Dyrdek has plans for three (yes, 3) more skate parks in the L.A. area. Tired of seeing street skateboarders treated as nuisances, the Midwestern-born Dyrdek started the Safe Spot, Skate Spot program to give them a legal place to ride handrails, ledges and stairs and the centerpiece of his new skate park is a nine-stair handrail.
Reached by telephone, Rob Dyrdek said: "More than anything, it solves a lot of issues. No. 1, it's building a legal place for kids to skate that duplicates a real street, not emulates it. It's the idea of not putting just a fence".
Dyrdek contributed $75,000 from his foundation and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar came up with the rest of the funding for the 14,000-square-foot, tri-level skate plaza at Hollenbeck Park just east of downtown. The $75,000 he contributed came from a $100,000 donation to his foundation from pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler's golf tournament.
The first skate park sponsored by Dyrdek opened in February 2009, in Lafayette Park, when he and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rode the world's largest skateboard ever made, a beast measuring 38 feet, 6 inches.
"They've bought into what I'm trying to do," Dyrdek said by phone."I think conceptually, when you say,'Hey, it's not that expensive. If you give me a little piece of it, I'll make a really cool, unique, skateable surface that enhances the park and looks gorgeous.' And even for all that, if skateboarding dies tomorrow, they still have this great plaza, and they can turn it into something else.” "They've really stepped up and given me basically a shot at every park in the city, and I've just been going out trying to raise money and make it happen."
Dyrdek, the star of "Rob&Big" and now the "Fantasy Factory" on MTV, made the recent movie "Street Dreams" earlier this year to show the mainstream what street skateboarders are all about.
His parks are built by Joe Ciaglia of California Skateparks and California Ramp Works. Ciaglia built the street course and half pipe for the first two editions of the Maloof Money Cup, the richest competition in skateboarding.