I'm writing this because I'm a skateboarder and I'm at my goddamn wit's end. I've tried to get on the "look at all these wonderful, expensive skate parks the city has generously built for us" bandwagon, but it's packed too full of crap for me to find a seat. And the cherry on top? The brand-new, visually offensive "skateable art" that just opened on Beacon Hill, funded by Red Bull and created in cooperation with Seattle Parks and Recreation. The Red Bull Skate Space is not a piece of art—it's a piece of shit. And it's not very skateable. Yes, skateboarders pride themselves on conquering unique aspects of the urban environment, but if Red Bull gives you $76,000, can't you at least design a smaller atrocity and spend the leftover dough on two low, flat recycled-plastic park benches? Please? They're only $350 from park supply catalogs, and I'd bet my left nut that they'd see more use in the first week than that corporate logo sculpture will see in a year.
The sculpture is annoying because it's a glaring example of the powers that be pissing good money away on polished turds, but the same thing happens with all the other big-ticket regional skate parks. Let's not forget SeaSk8 at Seattle Center. SeaSk8 cost $2.9 million to build, and it's got weird black sculpture-like things that don't serve any purpose, a rail you can't skate because of how it's situated, and ledges that have only half the angle iron they should, among other "features." SeaSk8 looks nice in photographs—it probably looks great in some design firm's portfolio—but it's not an exceptionally fun place to skate. By comparison, Benefit Park Skatedot (on the opposite end of Beacon Hill from the Red Bull thingy) was completed with a measly $90,000. It's really fun, and it's just two benches, a manual pad, a pole jam, a hip thingy, and a quarter pipe—all built into the margin of an existing park.
The thing about skateboarding is, you don't need much to have fun. Simple spots like Benefit provide a near limitless array of possibilities, while more complicated parks suffer from the phenomenon of diminishing returns. Skate parks are most effective when the obstacles they contain cater to the widest audience using the least amount of space and the lowest budget. It doesn't take a mathmagician to tell you that you coulda built a whole lot of Benefit-sized skatedots for that $2.9 mil. And it seems like a scandalously large waste of taxpayer dollars to build a skate park with enormous skateable glass art panels—yeah, they actually have enormous skateable glass-art panels at SeaSk8—when that money could have funded 32 (!) skatedots throughout the city, one for every neighborhood and sub-neighborhood you can think of.
By the way, this "let's blow our money on a small number of giant, not-that-great skate projects" is a scandalously radical departure from the vision of a network of small, inexpensive skate spots incorporated into existing parks that was originally laid out in the city's own Citywide Skatepark Plan. Who hijacked this perfectly sane, fiscally reasonable vision, I don't know. But I do know that I'm sending them a big, cosmic "fuck you."
Why am I so incensed?
For a really stupid reason: Because I just got kicked out of Westlake Park downtown for the umpteen-thousandth time. I'm so fed up with condo-dwelling Amazon recruits calling the cops on me for disturbing their Game of Thrones marathons. Don't you fuckers have $300 noise-canceling headphones? And why are you coming after the skateboarders? Why come after the people like me who just happen to recreate in a way you don't personally care for? Why not the meth dealers or the bored teenagers starting fights? Why do we live in a city that specifically outlaws skateboarding in Westlake Park—the one well-lit, centrally located plaza with ample smooth, flat ground and plentiful low, straight granite ledges in the city—yet refuses to build something similar anywhere else even though it could afford to 50 goddamn times over?
I'm expected to be grateful for the wasteful excesses of concrete that pass for skate parks when all I want is one straight, flat ledge that stays lit for at least a couple hours after I'm off work. And I've endured many a scolding from both cops and my fellow skateboarders about not being more involved in the civic process, when the reality is, I can't access the civic process. The city is building costly, useless skate projects willy-nilly, and I still don't have anywhere to skate after work because being in the service industry means I can't make it to the meetings.
Unlike the dickweasels watching Netflix on their leather couches, I work a night job. I'm much more likely to be taking their order after they've gone to the skate park community forum to complain about skateboarders than I am to be voicing my opinions in that forum. I've been skateboarding at Westlake for 10 years now, and the assholes complaining about it have been living in Seattle for probably 10 months at most. Now, I'm happy to let them get their beauty sleep so they can wake up early and figure out how to tweak their algorithm to put Twice Sold Tales completely out of business, but not until the tidal wave of prosperity our city is supposedly reaping from wealthy condo dwellers is used to build me a better place to skate than Westlake. So please, can we just put all the megabowls on hold for a bit and build a straight fucking ledge? Thanks.