After more than a year of lobbying by local skateboarders, officials are moving forward with plans to open a skate park in Atlantic City by next summer.
Project proposals are due at 9:30 a.m. today, and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s board could vote to hire a builder at its next meeting on Dec. 18, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said last week.
“Everyone I’ve talked to on the board, off the board, (who) works in the CRDA offices, goes to the meetings, is stoked,” Atlantic City Skate Park Association founder Jason Forslund said Sunday. “They definitely anticipate passing it and funding it.”
The 26-year-old Ventnor resident said he will help CRDA officials vet proposals this week and meet with them more frequently as summer — the goal opening date for the $850,000 project — approaches.
The park is slated for a vacant tract in the resort’s Ducktown section on Arctic Avenue. The site, about one-third of an acre in size, is beside The Walk Outlets shopping mall at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway, land and CRDA records show.
Assessed at $572,000, the property was acquired in pieces by the CRDA between 1996 and 2005, land records show.
It wasn’t until six years later that the agency took over development in the Atlantic City Tourism District, which includes the future skate park site. The district was launched by the same state legislation that transferred city planning powers to the CRDA.
The park will accommodate both skateboards and BMX bikes, subject to some kind of scheduling. And it likely will have a second phase, too — at least that’s the plan, Forslund said.
Project documents do not mention any subsequent phases, on which Forslund declined further comment.
He did say that retail components are not part of Phase 2 at this point. A skate shop would be a “no brainer,” given that none exists on the island, he said.
All of that, Forslund said, signifies recognition by CRDA and Atlantic City officials of how the park “is essential to having a diverse, and healthy, and culturally relevant community.”
“You’re starting a culture right there, you’re starting a scene ... that’s a something that Atlantic City doesn’t have and totally could,” he said.
He envisions a place where children, residents and visitors alike, can feel safe.
Tony Baloney’s owner Michael Hauke said he would try to put a pop-up shop near the park.
But he also agreed the resort lacks activities for children, specifically those that are more constructive than hanging out on the street or at his pizzeria in the city’s South Inlet section.
Young skateboarders also happen by the restaurant after a session with RAD, or Renaissance and Discovery. Atlantic City native Greg Simmons started the group as a way for children to skate in an organized, supervised fashion.
The park would expand that opportunity, Hauke said.
“It’s an awesome idea because there’s nothing to do for kids in Atlantic City,” Hauke said. “I think it would help little kids and the social environment locally — and when I say local I mean Mays Landing, Brigantine, other towns, too. ... (It) beats playing video games, robbing stores, doing drugs, getting drunk, hanging out with older kids and doing that peer-pressured stuff.”
An avid skateboarder during his adolescence, Hauke also noted that children often are “bored to death” while visiting the adult-oriented resort with their parents.
“Right now, you have the light show at Caesars Pier, or Steel Pier, or the beach, which are great things, but … when it comes down to it, families don’t feel comfortable dropping their kids off in Atlantic City to go aimlessly skateboard around. I think (it would be) different if there was a designated skate park,” he said.
The goal is to offer that this summer, Forslund said.
The CRDA started advertising the job to build the park nearly two months ago.
Butler did not provide information requested multiple times since Oct. 23 about the CRDA’s contractor selection committee, plans for including retail or other ancillary components, intent to hire a private operator for the park once it is built and other related matters.
Regardless, the strides have been huge in eyes of Hauke, Forslund and others eager to see the project come to fruition.
“It’s never gotten this far, and we’ve tried in Margate, and Ventnor, and other communities,” Forslund said. “I think it will say a lot about … the future of Atlantic City. I’m excited.”
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