The city's plan to replace the SeaSk8 skatepark—formerly located just east of Seattle Center—is now facing another crisis, as unforeseen construction costs have raised the price of the project by nearly a million dollars. Once again, poor planning, powerful lobbies, and a lack of oversight from the parks committee have screwed local skatepark advocates.
In January 2007, bulldozers demolished SeaSk8 to make room for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new parking garage. The city made plans to relocate the skatepark—organizing the parks department's Skate Park Advisory Committee (SPAC), a citizen panel set up to identify sites for new skateparks in the city—and pledged to build skaters a new park near the Center before construction of the parking garage was finished.
Now, the Gates Foundation's garage is on track to be finished by July, while SeaSk8 continues to be shuffled around.
In October, months after plans to relocate SeaSk8 to Elliott Avenue or the Center's Du Pen fountain site fell through, the city asked the Center to take a look at replacing Pavilions A and B—the large concrete structures that sit just south of KeyArena—with a skatepark. While the pavilion site wasn't SPAC members' first choice—they wanted the park to be relocated to Broad Street at the south end of the Center—they said they'd make it work and SPAC started looking for ways to incorporate green space and family areas into the new SeaSk8. Things seemed to be falling into place for the oft-relocated skatepark—but last week, SPAC was blindsided with a report from the Center, which put the costs for demolishing the pavilions at a staggering $4.6 million.
The original plan was for both sites to be demolished and replaced with 15,000 square feet of skatepark and green space. But, it turns out, Pavilion B sits right on top of the ducts that run in and out of KeyArena's kitchen. Replacing and rerouting the ducts would more than double the estimated cost of the skatepark so, of course, SPAC was notified that it would be getting a third less space. Rather than duke it out with the Center and move the skatepark again, the city council—already growing weary of dealing with SeaSk8—has decided to move forward with the site. "I think everybody's really ready to be done with this," says Council Member Richard Conlin, a member of the parks committee. "It's been a frustrating experience." Even the scaled-back skatepark will require an additional injection of $800,000.
By all accounts, no one saw the cost increase coming. "That site was in the mix for months," says SPAC chair Ryan Barth. "It seems bizarre to think no one would have done some general homework to see the implications of building a site there." SPAC member Matthew Lee Johnston says that while the council has been politically supportive of new skateparks, he notes that skateboarders actually have fewer parks than they did a year ago. "I feel great about the support, but it doesn't get me closer to having more skateparks," Johnston says. "I'm a skateboarder, I can't skate on policy."
The person who should have been asking those questions is Council Member David Della, who chairs the council's parks committee. As The Stranger goes to print, Della is up for reelection. On Della's watch, SeaSk8 was demolished without a solid replacement plan in place. The first planned site—on Elliott Avenue—fell apart due to cost issues; community outcry killed Della's plan to replace Seattle Center's Du Pen fountain with a skatepark; Della was at the wheel when Seattle Center heavies like the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project muscled SeaSk8 out of a site on Broad Street, which SPAC had identified as the optimal location for a new park; and Della's parks committee failed to foresee financial problems with the current pavilion site. Della would not talk to The Stranger.
SPAC is holding a meeting to discuss the future of SeaSk8 on Thurs, Nov 15, at 6:30 p.m. in Conference Room A at the Seattle Center House.