At a skatepark meeting at City Hall on January 8, skateboard advocates were still recovering from the sudden loss of the city's last central skatepark, which was demolished last week to make way for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new headquarters.
The destruction of the park at Seattle Center came as a surprise to skaters like John Carr and Matt Johnston, both members of a citywide skatepark task force and the citizen's advisory committee. They were under the impression that a site for a replacement park would be named before the wrecking crew came through.
The requirement to rebuild the park comes from a city council resolution sponsored by Council Member Jan Drago almost two years ago. In addition, a city council ordinance from 2005 also required Seattle Center to have at least begun the process of relocating the skatepark before beginning demolition on the old one.
Under the terms of the purchase agreement between the Gates Foundation and Seattle Center, the new skatepark is supposed to be open by the time the parking facility for the new headquarters is finished in late 2008.
In a letter to City Attorney Tom Carr's office, lawyers for the Gates Foundation reiterated that "it is incumbent on the [Center] to complete its actions and obligations to relocate the skateboard park."
For now, though, there isn't so much as a sketch of what the new park will look like.
More than a half million dollars set aside from the sale of the 12-acre parking lot where the skatepark was located will go toward building a replacement elsewhere in Seattle Center.
A city council budget proviso gives the center until March 1 to find a replacement site. If they miss the deadline, the council will withhold a portion the Center's funding for future operations.
John Carr and other skateboarding advocates met about seven months ago with Seattle Center and city officials to find a feasible location. Seattle Center spokeswoman Kari Shaw says, "It was a positive meeting and lots of great ideas were exchanged." However, she adds, "It's a long process of identifying where the skatepark needs to be. We're looking for a spot that is 15,000 square feet and there is not a lot of space like that [at the Center]."
Johnston, however, says Seattle Center officials have not been eager to communicate with the skateboarding community. "We walked around the entire campus and had to listen to why a skatepark was not possible on every inch of the campus," Johnston says.