The Pipeline Skate Park is going through its own evolution within the extreme sports revolution. For about a month, the city Parks and Recreation Department facility has been undergoing an internal makeover to help push local skaters to the next level by creating new ramps and opening up the traffic flow.
"When the park first was designed things were kind of like at a beginner level, and it's been six years and now it's multi levels, ledges and banks, and quarter pipes," said skateboarder and Pipeline worker Patrick VanPool. "This park kind of evolves with the skaters in this town, like, as their progression evolves the park's evolving with them."
The 7,500-square-foot covered skating facility at 2400 Mendenhall Loop Road opened Dec. 31, 1997, after 15 months of community organization and fund-raising orchestrated by Parks and Recreation. The renovations are being made by the help of a $5,000 grant provided by The Seven Circles Coalition, a Southeast Alaska youth-orientated drug and alcohol prevention group.
"Skaters get to a certain point and they get tired of that same old pyramid, they want to add some kind of a rail on it," said Pipeline and Zach Gordon Youth Center Manager Kristi West. "You see skateboarding moving on from ramps to more of this street-type stuff. You really do see the sport not only evolving here but everywhere. It's moved to a different level and we've actually tried to move with that as we can."
West said the recent construction has cost about $1,750 and will cost approximately $400 more to add Skatelite, a waterproof ramp surface used in most major competitions including the Vans Triple Crown and ESPN's X Games tours. The remaining grant funds go toward a youth-adult partnership for face-to-face meetings with youths in nine other Southeast communities, said West.
Pipeline worker and skateboarder Jason Bardenheuer said the construction will help keep up with the needs of local inline skaters and skateboarders.
"To the point the park was at before, everyone pretty much stepped it up and adapted," said Bardenheuvr. "And now we built ramps to push the level even more and we're hoping what will happen is people evolved to that before. So now they're gonna evolve to this, be even better and then we can remodel even more."
Bardenheuer said the Skate Board, a group of skaters who work on facility rules, park cleanup, management, fund-raising, and more, are working on new designs and hope to do more renovations during the summer.
"The park is constantly progressing," said VanPool. "Change is good, especially when it comes to parks. If it's too much the same it kind of gets bland."
West said the park was a much needed facility to cater to an unserved group of Juneau athletes.
"After hanging out with them for the last five years, I see this as something like football or basketball, you know. You find something that you really like to do, and the skateboarders, that's what they want to do," said West. "This is what gets their athletic ability and their skills brought up. They're really strong athletes, they're good at what they do, they're dedicated and committed."
Bardenheuer said there is a misconception about skateboarders and said the Pipeline is a fun and safe environment for kids to do what they enjoy.
"Everyone stereotypes skateboarders as being bad kids, druggies, stuff like that," said Bardenheuer. "It's actually just the opposite. It's just people trying to have fun just like soccer players, playing Little League baseball. It doesn't matter it's all tied into the same thing, it's just kids trying to have fun."
West said she believes these kids may be somewhat alternative and at times rebellious - just like any teenagers.
"I think they are really great kids," she said. "They're really a challenging and unique group and finally their needs are being met and I think that's going to be really healthy for them."
Bardenheuer said skating is a way to steer clear of trouble while tapping into your creative side.
"You have a rough day, you have stuff in your head, it's just an outlet to get things out, you know," he said. "It's just a way to keep pushing yourself, have fun, and it keeps you out of trouble."
The park is an unsupervised facility, but West said it has not become a problem as of yet. She encourages parents to become involved with their kids' hobbies and to come to the park to watch their progress.
West said the city can't require skaters to use safety gear, such as helmets, knee pads and wrist guards, but said the equipment is very important.
"We strongly encourage it, and we'd like to encourage parents to require that their children use safety gear when they are at the park and that they know and follow the posted rules," said West.
VanPool and Bardenheuer said they are trying to organize some competitions and clinics for the summer, but said getting sponsors involved is the major challenge. Regardless of special events, they said the park will be heavily used this summer.
"We got kids doing huge airs, we got kids that are more tech, doing flip tricks into stuff," said Bardenheuer. "People are stepping it up, and it's really fun. People are getting really good here."
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.