After almost 10 years pushing for a skatepark in the city, the nonprofit Skate AC hopes to see the community get back on its boards now that construction at the Sovereign Avenue site has finished.

“It’s really like a dream come true right now,” said Jason Klotz, a lifelong skater and one of the leaders of Skate AC.

Workers finished smoothing wet cement on a new quarter pipe Tuesday but decided to leave a few graffiti-coated bricks exposed in the back.

Zach Katzen, a member of Skate AC and program manager for the Atlantic City Arts Foundation, said leaving the back of the ramp untouched means the bones of the park’s past are still there.

Klotz, 30, started advocating for a skate park in 2010. He’d always wanted a place to skate on Absecon Island since his father got him started surfing and skating in Margate when he was about 12.

Klotz said the main reason he continued to push for the park, which is across the street from the Boys and Girls Club and down the street from an elementary school, was to give the community something he didn’t have.

“We were looked at like punks, and we dealt with a lot of police and a lot of security at a young age,” he said.

With the lack of a park nearby, he said he watched some lose their passion for the sport and some go down the wrong path, falling into opioid addiction.

“That always really hurt my heart because I knew that maybe not all of them would have been saved, but if we would’ve had something to do and a culture to thrive in and a culture to feel a part of a community, people maybe would have wanted to go to a park every day,” he said.

In 2013, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority promised them an ambitious and expensive skatepark that would sit in the empty lot near the Atlantic City Expressway entrance.

But those plans never picked up speed, so he and his friends built their own ramps and ledges in a do-it-yourself park on Sovereign Avenue.

When that park, known as “back sov,” was torn down in 2017 because it was deemed a liability for the city, Klotz said the skating community suffered a “traumatic” blow.

“We had something good going in a city that doesn’t have much going for youth,” he said.

Now, after becoming an official nonprofit and getting approval from Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. and city officials, Klotz thinks that community will return.

He’s seen skateboarding provide a community and a social aspect he hasn’t seen with other sports.

“The competition thing is not the big goal to win,” he said. “It’s just being together, enjoying the moment and riding your board in the sunshine, that’s the win, and if you land your trick on top of that, then you really won.”

Their GoFundMe raised more than $12,000, which included large donations from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Jingoli family, for a Philadelphia skate company, 5th Pocket, to build a professional park.

Jesse Clayton, 5th Pocket’s founder, agreed to build a park valued at double what was raised.

His company has built large-scale municipal parks across the country in the past but will not make a profit from the Atlantic City project.

“It has nothing to do with what we get paid. It has everything to do with instilling some value in these kids,” Clayton said.

Clayton said he saw the construction of the park as a chance to build a relationship with the community for future projects.

“Those are our people, we speak their language, we understand how desperately kids want a place to skate,” he said.

Regulations will most likely fall to the city to decide, but the goal of the park is to remain open and accessible, Councilman Jimmy Cheng said.

“When kids skate in a skatepark, it’s way better than skating in the street. It’s much safer,” Cheng said.

The park will have a soft opening and then a grand opening June 21 to celebrate Go Skateboarding Day and the start of the 48 Blocks art show.

Skate AC has plans to start programming, including board donations and lessons from instructors. They have also started talks with the city for another park and have reached out to the organization behind the Warped Tour, which is coming to the city June 29 and 30.

“What we want to do is highlight the areas of the community that people either need to know about or be aware about and just know the jewels of Atlantic City outside of the casinos,” Katzen said.

Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @AublePressofAC

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