Do you want to see if there is a need for an indoor skatepark in Calgary? If you’re not sure, one visit to Skate Church will provide all the evidence you need. Tuesday nights, skaters from all over Calgary converge on the Dalhousie Community Church gym to skate for a couple of hours. It only takes a few minutes for the gym, basketball hoops and all, to become a skateboard park. Skate Church leaders and volunteers move the boxes, rails, banks, quarter pipes, and other obstacles into the gym and into place around the gym and presto, the park is ready for the skaters to arrive.
Skate Church Proves Very Popular
Every Tuesday night Skate Church is packed, with skaters using every inch of the 2100 sq ft available. In the first session for 13 and under, it’s normal for as many as 30 skaters to show up. That number can grow to between 70 and 80 for the older group, who are freer to travel and can get there without their parents. Those that come aren’t all Dalhousie locals either. I spoke to the father of a young skater in the first group who drove his son from Tuscany in the northwest. One 13 year old takes advantage of the LRT station nearby to come from his home near the Heritage station in the south. Another skateboarder described his 45-minute bus ride from north Calgary. Yes, even though Skate Church is not very big as skateparks go, it is HUGE for the skaters who come from all over Calgary and cherish the skateboarding opportunity each week.
A Good Place To Be Active
What would happen if Calgary had an indoor skatepark for the over 36 000 skateboarders that live here? Well for one thing, it would give young skateboarders a place to go and be active doing what they love to do. During a rare break from skating, one 16 year-old commented that he’d be there “all the time.” He went on to say that if Calgary had an indoor skatepark, he “would do something other than sit around home all the time.” With obesity rates rising and fitness levels falling, it makes sense to provide young people with the chance to make healthy choices, like skateboarding even in the winter.
Watching Skate Church in action you’ll see skateboarders active from the time they arrive until it’s time to leave. Rarely does anyone sit down to take a break, the only time they stop to catch their breath is when they are waiting their turn to go again. One of the Skate Church leaders is Jason and he told me that behaviour problems have been very rare at Skate Church. The last time leaders had to deal with a poor behaviour incident was several years ago, and even that was not serious. “In the seven years I’ve worked at Skate Church, I have had to speak to someone about their behaviour maybe five times,” said Jason. Because of the stereotypes of skateboarders and teenagers this might be surprising to some, but Skate Church spectators easily recognize the high activity ratio and positive vibe. “If you have good people running the skatepark things will go well,” Jason comments, “and if you have sketchy people in charge, that element is more likely to come out.” The excellent leadership at Dalhousie Skate Church shows in the positive energy, friendly atmosphere, and ongoing popularity of their program.
Skate Church is not the only place Calgary skateboarders look to skate in the winter. Skateboarders will shovel snow from Calgary’s only outdoor skatepark, Shaw Millennium Park, while a few skaters look for other places to skate. When I asked one skater what having an indoor skatepark would mean, he replied that an indoor park would mean he “wouldn’t have to skate the plus 15s any more.” He went on to say that he had also been busted skating in a vacant building. Skaters for Public Skateparks tells us “if a city doesn’t have a skatepark, the city IS a skatepark,” and this young skater proved that point. An indoor skatepark would fill an important need for Calgary skateboarders, and give them a reason not to skate private property even in winter.
Is There A Need?
So is there a need for an indoor skatepark in Calgary? Definitely. The crowd at the Skate Church proves that the demand is there. Calgary’s young people need safe, clean, positive places to be active and to socialize, and a skatepark would help fill that need for many Calgary youth. Calgary has a long history of failed for-profit indoor skateparks, but other cities have had success with a not-for-profit model, where the skateboard community partnered with their municipal government and businesses to create a sustainable skateboarding facility. CASE is working to create the partnerships that are needed and asks that anyone who thinks they can help to contact CASE’s chair.