PORTSMOUTH – Spohn Ranch, the design and construction company renowned for building skate parks across the country, has officially started construction on the new Portsmouth Skate Park as of earlier this week.
The Skate Park, which is over seven years in the making, has come together thanks to a variety of grant funds, monetary and in-kind donations, as well as the hard work of volunteers and the Portsmouth Skate Park Committee.
“It’s taken awhile to get to this point,” admitted 1st Ward Councilman and Skate Park Committee Member Sean Dunne. “When the shutdown started, the Tony Hawk Foundation (who awarded grant funds for the project) had a Zoom call with different cities from across America. People were all sharing their challenges in fundraising – but Portsmouth managed to take care of that. Our challenge was moving forward with construction.”
The COVID-19 pandemic halted progress as the City waited for the final go-ahead from the Army Civil Corps of Engineers. Finally, this summer that came through. And last week, the Reiser Construction Company completed the ground work necessary for construction to begin.
“When we first announced the skate park, we listed the in-kind donations that could bring down the overall cost,” explained Dunne. “Matt Reiser stepped up and prepped the groundwork which saved us a week of overall work. I’m incredibly grateful for his generosity.”
Dunne was thankful to a variety of other local players who helped make the project possible.
“We had a huge bump from SOMC with a $10,000 grant. That money showed we had started the process of getting money and we were serious. I had friends from New Jersey donate. Brian Smith held a fundraiser at Frank n’ Steins. Folks designed t-shirts for fundraisers…it was a really collaborative effort and it was great to see this alliance of people.”
“In many ways, this was an example of democracy in action. People wanted this,” said Dunne. “Then they presented those ideas and chose folks to represent the project. That’s how I got involved and why I advocated for it at the legislative level. And we were extremely efficient with financing the projecet with a minimal cost to taxpayers…But, I was saddened to see some people adopt a cynical view of it and label it as a vanity project. That type of cynicism has rotted the City and its government for too long – labeling progress as vanity speaks to the emptiness of a few people in our City.”
The project is estimated to be completed in 6-8 weeks. In the meantime, Dunne will wait impatiently for opening day.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be yet one more thing a young person can do in Portsmouth,” said Dunne. “My New Jersey impatience can’t wait. This is also going to generate more buzz for that area of the City.”
The skate park will be located on Fourth Street between Jefferson and Madison. A new mural by Charlie Haskins will be completed soon there and Deadbolt Escape Rooms are located at the end of the block as well. Dunne hopes more development will come to that end of the City.
“There’s real potential there. Let’s not be satisfied with what we have. Let’s keep going like we have with the dog park, multi use path and riverfront development.”