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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 10 months ago

Skaters campaign to make city park free

The city is wiling to consider making the Payne Skate Park open to the public, but more research needs to be done.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Whether you ride regular or goofy — or even if you push mongo — Payne Skate Park users say the city-owned property should be open to you, free of charge.

As the city undertakes a search for a private contractor to oversee the skate park at Payne Park, a group of skaters is lobbying officials to forego the outside operator. At an Oct. 8 meeting regarding bidding for the skate park concession agreement, dozens of members of the public showed up and asked the city to instead consider running the park itself and investing in improvements.

One of the people who encouraged skaters to attend the meeting was Tim Storck, a board member of Sk8Skool, the nonprofit that has contracted with the city since 2010 to operate the skate park. Storck said there are multiple aspects of the current arrangement that limit the number of people interested in using the park, including fees and hours.

Storck said some Sarasota skaters are willing to travel to free public skate parks in Bradenton and St. Petersburg. Storck questioned why the city couldn’t run a quality skate park itself.

“Our biggest thing was: Payne Park could be so much more than what it is, but nobody is going there because nobody wants to skate there,” Stork said.

City staff said it’s willing to consider assuming control of Payne Skate Park, but more research would need to be done. Because the city has already begun the process of finding a new operator, it first needs to wait for the bidding period to close Oct. 29.

Mark Hamilton, the city’s supervisor of athletics, said the city initially contracted with Sk8Skool because the group provided an opportunity to save costs and put the park under the supervision of individuals more familiar with skating. Hamilton suggested costs and staffing requirements would be part of any conversation the city had about managing the park.

“We’d have to discuss internally what would be the best solution for us,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he appreciated the input the skaters provided. Storck said he understood the city had to follow procedures before discussing the future of the park further, but he said skaters would continue to seek opportunities to advocate for an open facility.

“We just want to see the park free,” Storck said.

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