In the upper loft of Bauhaus, a Capitol Hill coffeehouse, a guy in a red retro running-suit jacket pushed a few slate-topped tables together, to make room. Soon, a thirtysomething guy with curly blond hair took a seat, followed by a man in a black baseball cap. "Where's Jason?" one asked, surveying the crowded loft as a half dozen more people sat at the table for the Sunday-night meeting. "Out looking for a bigger space," someone replied.

Soon, Jason Harrison--a tall, cleaned-up version of rocker Jack White--showed up and joined the crowd, which had doubled. In just a few days' notice, and with the help of his website, Harrison assembled local skateboarders to discuss a campaign for more--and better--skate parks. This was the first meeting for the new group, dubbed the Puget Sound Skatepark Association (PSSA).

But before the skaters could get down to the nitty-gritty of forming a lobbying force, it was clear they had outgrown the Bauhaus space. After a straw poll to see if anyone was underage--nobody was, shattering the image of the teenage punk skater--the large group (average age closer to 35) paraded up the street to Six Arms brewery. There, the skaters, now numbering near 30, took over a second-floor balcony, ordered a round of pitchers, and lit up a few cigarettes.

This Sunday, January 18, meeting was prompted by a previous city parks department meeting, held just five days earlier, where officials discussed building a new park in Ballard. The park, which is slated to take over a vacant Safeway, will also potentially displace a popular skate park, built in 2001. At the city meeting, nearly 200 skateboarders rallied to save Ballard Skate Park, one of only two city skate parks (there's another at Seattle Center). Skateboarders think chances are slim that their beloved concrete bowl will survive the wrecking ball. Cathy Tuttle, a planner with the city's parks department, did not return several calls.

The city drafted a "skateboard park policy" last summer, which says Seattle is supposed to be friendly to skate parks. Now skaters want to make sure the city follows through and builds parks, instead of letting places like Ballard Skate Park be demolished.

"The [earlier] meeting on Tuesday really stunk," Harrison--who runs the Northwest skater website sleestak.net under his alias, Bobcat--told his supporters. "We've only got two parks. [Losing Ballard Skate Park] leaves us with one park. So let's see if we can start an organization, a watchdog force," he said, speaking over a Johnny Cash record.

Harrison explained that Seattle has something like 204 athletic fields. "When was the last time you drove past a baseball field and saw someone playing?" he asked. Instead, citing Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association stats, he argued that the city should pay attention to the sixth most played sport in the U.S., which has over 13 million participants--skateboarding. The soon-to-be-capped reservoir just off Capitol Hill's Broadway would be an ideal spot for a new skate park, someone pointed out. "I bet you'd get 300 or 400 people there every day," he said. Others suggested industrial SoDo. Either way, "We should find a business association to back us," said Joe Moorman, who's headed up Bellevue's skate park--and organized skaters in that city--for 10 years. "Businesses want kids to stop skating on their property."

But even if Seattle officials are convinced to site a new park, PSSA's work would not be done, the group decided: They'd have to make sure the parks are built right. "When the cities are putting out money, they aren't putting out good skate parks," said Steve Betton, a guy in a Grinch T-shirt who also goes by the name Swervo. Harrison agreed: "We're tired of skate parks with bad transitions that run into walls. We're tired of parks with no flow." The nascent group wants Seattle to tighten its requirements for construction, so only companies with expertise--like the local outfit Grindline--can squeak through the skate park bidding process.

The skaters hunkered down and debated a few tactics. Zim, a guy in a gray hooded sweatshirt, came to the meeting toting a three-ring binder crammed with info about becoming a nonprofit. Then Bellevue's Moorman suggested a more immediate solution. "If you want the city's attention, the first thing is showing up to every council meeting, and turning those meetings into a pain in the ass," he said. "The rest of it can be worked out later." The PSSA decided Seattle City Council Member David Della--who heads up the Parks, Neighborhoods & Education Committee--would be their focus when his committee convenes in February.

amy@thestranger.com

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