Skateboarders all over Philadelphia were finally given a home this week with the opening of Paine’s Park on the south side of the Philadelphia Museum of Art along the Schuylkill Banks. In 2002 Paine’s Park was a concept, last summer Franklin’s Paine was finally able to break ground, and yesterday the park was officially opened. The 75,000-square-foot park sits next to a popular exercise path along the Schuylkill River, just below the Philadelphia Art Museum. It offers amenities for boarders and pedestrians. The park is built with railings, flat and banked walls for skating, plus seating areas and other attractions for non-skaters.
A little over a decade ago, John Street banned skateboarders from LOVE park, saying that they were destroying the stonework in the park and causing trouble with pedestrians. Since then skateboarders have been out of luck, with nowhere official to practice their pastime. Street offered boarders a plot of land to build their own park, but no money to build it. The development of a seperate skate park dragged on with little to no funding, making it seem like an unlikely vision. Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund (FPSF) began capital fundraising in 2007 to complete their main project, then known as the Schuylkill River Skatepark Project, raising an amazing $4.5 million in capital support.
Philadelphia has a deep skateboarding history with LOVE Park playing an integral part. LOVE Park’s granite ledges, benches and steps made it a popular spot for skaters and a fixture in skateboarding culture being partially credited with bringing the X-Games to Philadelphia in 2001 and 2002 and even being featured as a level in the game Tony Hawk’s proving ground.
Besides the obvious use and intention of Paine’s Park, this park isn’t just for skating. Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner of the city’s parks and recreation department called it “a new public urban plaza that happens to be skateable,” with seating areas designed to deter skaters, making them for pedestrians only and events such as concerts planned for the “urban plaza” to make the park more inviting and integrated for non-skating pedestrians.
The completion of Paine’s park marks a big step in the mission of FPSF to make Philadelphia a more skateboarder compatible city. With more skate parks planned and a few minor parks like Whitehall park in Frankford already completed FPSF is trying to even the skateboarder to skatepark ratio in Philadelphia which is lacking compared to cities like Houston, San Diego and Los Angeles.