Skateboard parks become reality in New London
New London — Charlie King has been pushing for construction of a skateboard park in the city for four years, since about the time he opened Hive Skate Shop in 2013.
Years of work and advocacy by this homegrown entrepreneur and skateboard enthusiast finally has paid off.
A joint venture with the city has helped to transform Fulton Park, for years underutilized and otherwise neglected, into a skateboard venue that opened last month.
King, founder of the nonprofit New London Skatepark Organization, now has fulfilled a second goal: finding a place to build and run an indoor skateboard park. King signed a lease and secured approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission last month to open the indoor park at a vacant warehouse at 139 Shaw St.
Word is spreading about the indoor skate park, which will offer a $15 entrance fee and feature skate schools and special events. The closest competition, King said, is from an indoor skate park in Taunton, Mass., and so he expects to draw skaters from across the state and beyond.
“There’s nothing like it around. I’m getting calls from people stoked up about it,” King said. “We’re busy working on it right now.”
He’s planning an October opening.
King has closed his skate shop at 176 State St. and plans to transplant that retail business into the new Shaw Street location. The 9,000-square-foot building has both office space and portions with 20-foot ceilings, room for the many “street elements” he has planned for the venue.
The skate park at Fulton Park was accomplished through a collaboration between King and the city. The New London Skatepark Organization donated the ramps and other park elements and the city, through its contractor, poured the 50-by-100-foot concrete pad.
King said he already is thinking about expansions to the park.
“I’m really excited about the Fulton Park location. It’s getting a ton of use. I think the community is really appreciative,” he said.
Public Works Director Brian Sear said the concrete pad was poured by Colona Concrete through an existing contract with the city for its sidewalk and paving work. An exact figure on the cost was not available.
The park’s maintenance and the liability associated with the skateboarding falls to the city. Risk Manager Paul Gills said the city has followed the appropriate steps in mitigating liability and the one remaining feature of the park yet to be installed is a fence.
Mayor Michael Passero said the entire process was vetted through the Parks and Recreation Commission. He sees the skate park as a nice amenity to the city’s park system.
It is also a long time coming for the skateboarders who have had no other place to go besides city streets and parking garages.
King, who recently turned 30 and has been skateboarding since age 11, said skateboarding plays a positive role in the lives of a lot of kids.
“It keeps people out of trouble, provides a support system I really believe in,” King said.
King said skateboarding is as popular as ever and will be included in the 2020 Olympics. He expects more boarders, including professional women skateboarders, to become household names.