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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Designer redraws SL skatepark plan

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spohn Ranch's latest skatepark, in Gardena, California, has been well received. Designer Vince Onel wants to use what the company has learned over the past couple of years to re-invent the plan for Storm Lake.
The wheels have long since fallen off a plan to establish a skatepark in Storm Lake, but despite delays, an effort to revive the stalled project are slowly beginning to roll.

Progress? "Yes and no," says Dan Berglund, who plans to form a volunteer committee to spearhead fundraising to build a park.

Tied up by business demands, Berglund hasn't been able to do as much organizing as he had hoped, and an original goal to get a project off the ground by the end of the year now appears unlikely.

However, progress is being made on the design.

Berglund has been in touch with Vince Onel, designer for leading skatepark company Spohn Ranch in California. Onel, an Iowa City native, visited Storm Lake in August of 2011 and drew the design for a $150,000 proposed park. The City has taken no action on the plan since, and a once-optimistic committee involving young skaters has dissolved amid much frustration.

Onel has volunteered to revisit the plan, at no expense to the community.

"The idea was that with construction costs rising since the original plan was drawn, we might need to go back and see if there is anything we can do to cut down cost," Berglund said. "But Vince said he has some new ideas and potentially some new features, and wants to make some changes for Storm Lake. We should have the new plan by the end of the year. He also had some neat ideas for fundraising," said Berglund.

Since his visit to Storm Lake, the skater turned skatepark architect has worked on many additional projects. His company, Spohn Ranch, has created skateparks large and small across the country - even some challenging assignments to create a skatepark within a classical museum and on board a ship. This past year they have built parks within an Army Air base, and at a native American tribal headquarters. One of their latest projects took five years for a city to approve, another was built from a bare dirt lot in four weeks' time.

Onel has recently worked on new parks in Oskaloosa and Winterset in Iowa, and said those projects have managed to find some grant resources that Storm Lake might also be able to seek.

"He's got a neat way of breaking the cost estimate down - slight changes in grading, concrete, rebar and so on can make a difference. There are other ideas such as payment-in-kind for some of the things that are needed, or offering naming rights to some features for companies that donate toward the cost. He has been able to shave costs off recent parks that Spohn has been building," Berglund says. "And it's a plus that the company and the designer are familiar with Iowa and Storm Lake."

There has been some interest from the community, and Berglund now hopes to assemble a committee after the first of the year.

The local banker, who is involved with other youth-oriented programs in the community, says he still hopes to have a project ready to break ground next spring. "The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to build it," he says. "It's okay to do something basic now, and it could always be further developed in phases if the community decides to go that way."

Seneca Park, behind the police station, is still being viewed as the likely location, although other possibilities are not being ruled out.

Anyone who would like to be involved on the committee may contact Bergland.

Although he has not yet approached the city council, and plans to wait until he has something more solid to present, city officials are well aware of the effort.

"On the skatepark, we are basically waiting to see what the private side comes up with, and whether they can raise some matching funds," says City Manager Jim Patrick.

"In the scope of things, the council is interested in seeing it go forward, but the resources are limited from the city side," he says. "We just have a lot of projects that are probably a little more important to the community right now."

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