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Skate park: Something to celebrate

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Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2002 10:00 pm

Is there any parent of teen-agers who hasn't heard them whine: There's nothing to do in Lodi?

If they play sports, you don't hear it a lot. If they love school - well, excuse me - there must be a couple who like school.

Anyway, the volume of the ones who like to skate and ride bikes will be turned way down come late April when the 20,000-square-foot skate park opens.Marty Weybret

The equipment list for the new park looks like an inventory sheet for a municipal airport with drainage lines, but I'm sure the shredders will get excited about this:

. A launch box.

. Several 4-foot and 6-foot quarter pipes.

. A 4-foot radiused bank hipped into a mini ramp.

. A stealth box.

. A 4-foot to 6-foot raked quarter pipe.

. Two freestanding grind rails.

And on and on.

It's all designed "to do big air and catch you when you land," Aaron Spohn said Monday. He is a principal in a partnership between two companies: Spohn Ranch, which builds skate parks, and Sanctuary Skate Parks, which is in the business of operating them.

"(Lodi's is) going to be the best park we've done in California," Spohn said. "We designed it a year ago and it's still the best one here. We have some bigger ones in other states - the northeast, New Jersey, a 30,000-square-foot one in Alabama." But out on the coast, Lodi is going to have Sanctuary Skate Parks' premier facility for many months to come.

The Spohn Ranch name carries a lot of weight in the world of skateboarding and extreme sports. Although the new park will have a pro shop selling merchandise, Jeremy Clarke, manager of the local skate shop Ooga Booga, Inc., is stoked.

"We're all excited about it," Clarke said.

The new park, "makes Lodi a bigger town."

"Spohn Ranch does, like, the X Games. This will help everybody."

The fact that Spohn's company will operate the park means a manager will be present and for those who worry about the behavior of kids using the park, his words should be soothing:

"Based on the distance to the homes and the fact the equipment is down in the basin, I don't think anyone is going to hear the skaters," Spohn said. "They will be supervised and these are good kids. They fought hard for this; they aren't going to jeopardize their park."

"I'm getting excited," said Dennis Cunnington, who, along with Dave Vacarrezza and a large group of local kids, formed a committee that scouted skate parks throughout the west and focused on the Kofu Park location. "It's taken so long to get going it's hard to stay motivated.

"The Musco lighting is just awesome; it doesn't glare into the neighborhood. The pro shop is being built by Meehleis Modular Buildings and it looks like an upscale portable at one of the schools," he said. "It meets ADA and state specs. Everything's finally falling into where it should be."

One thing the kids have to know: There will be three hours of free skate time a week. Otherwise, it's going to cost a few bucks to use the skate park. The concession agreement that Spohn signed places the maximum charge for members at $5 for three hours and $10 for nonmembers. He expects the charges to be less: More like a dollar an hour. A membership fee will be $50 per year.

After all, the park will cost over half a million dollars to build and the manager has to be paid. Spohn and his partners will pay the city a concession fee of 5 percent on its first $100,000 of business, sliding down to 3 percent on amounts over $200,000.

"This must be a viable business venture," Lodi Parks and Recreation Director Roger Baltz said.

"It's going to be really fun," Spohn Ranch chief financial officer Kirsten Bradford said. "Not only are the kids going to be able to skate and ride their BMX bikes, we also are going to have a pro shop. We'll carry all the latest clothing and equipment. There will be a lounge and they can basically hang out with their friends."

Cunnington can't wait.

"I just love kids. My kid used to skate when he was younger," he said.

But now he's older and on to other things.

"Dave and I are like kids. We go down to the X Games (with Dave's boys and watch the pros catch the really big air)."

But who wants to watch? In Lodi, they'll be able to get out and do it.

Marty Weybret is the Lodi News-Sentinel's publisher. He can be reached via e-mail.


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