In November 2014, with support from the Albany police department, city planners took a serious look at transforming four underused Washington Park tennis courts into Albany's first public skate park. Phase one of the project has come full circle.
Officials gathered in the new 20,000-square foot skate park in early July for a ribbon-cutting celebrating Albany's first foray into creating a professional grade park. New York State Senator Neil Breslin supported the project. "You look around and you see these kids with tremendous talent. It's not within my skill set, but it's important for the city of Albany and the quality of life. It'll bring these kids to a supervised environment off the street, so there's less risk of accidents and they'll have a great time."
County Executive Dan McCoy jumped on a board for a test-run while Assemblymember Pat Fahy praised the park. "It's positive for youth. It's positive for the neighborhood and it's positive for the local businesses nearby."
The tennis courts and park roadways had served as an illegal de facto skate park for years. Trevor Tulley co-owns Seasons Skateshop on Lark Street. He's convinced the new "official" park is one of the best things that could ever happen for city youth. "Oh it's huge! This is a very healthy skateboard community, and it took something that was really good and went and made it a lot better. Sort of the icing on the cake for all we have going on here in Albany."
In June 2016, skaters and the general public gathered at the Washington Park Lake House for a meeting with former pro skateboarder Kanten Russell, now a project manager for Stantec, an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry, whose Action Sports Group was selected to craft the new park. Russell says Stantec just happened to have an office in Albany, and the city found out it had a division for designing skate parks. "So we had to compete for it competitively, win it competitively, and then basically, because we already did the preliminary work and cost estimating on what we thought could work here, I think we had kind of a jumpstart on the project to meet their very quick stringent deadline, scheduling and budget."
$200,000 was budgeted for the park. A state grant covered about half, with the Washington Park Conservancy chipping in around $12,000 and the city the remainder. Russell explained portions of existing asphalt courts would be re-purposed as rideable surfaces. "By re-using what's there and creating some additional features, that helps the budget go a lot farther than starting from scratch and having to pour all new concrete."
Now, all that's left as a reminder of the former tennis courts is a "No Skateboarding" sign posted nearby. Before Russell left town last year, he said he was optimistic the park would one day include a feature known as a "bowl," offering skaters an opportunity to hone their skills. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan reminded all that "this is a living city and a living park." She says that promise is still on the table. "This is a message to the community that we care about it, that we will make investments in it and that we understand that we have to ensure that we are listening to the residents and stakeholders who are here. And so, this is great, I'm also aware that this was phase one, so while we certainly cannot make a commitment or an announcement today, the fact that we were able to get to a 'yes-if' on phase one, means I have the same determination to get to a 'yes-if' on phase two, do let's cut the ribbon and enjoy the day." (applause fades)
A couple of local skaters joined the mayor, Assemblyman John McDonald, city Recreation Commissioner Jonathan Jones, Common Council Member Richard Conti and other officials for the cutting.