By T. Scott Boatright
It won’t involve water skiing or fishing, but there could soon be plenty of activity happening at the “concrete pond” formerly known as the Ruston Municipal Pool.
That’s because May was a great month for the Friends of Ruston Skatepark, who have been working to accumulate $250,000 in funding to break ground and begin converting the old pool facility into a new park for skateboards and rolling skate enthusiasts to hone their skills.
An online 50/50 auction and event featuring a number of custom-painted skateboard decks, including one signed by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, raised $63,000 toward Ruston’s Skatepark construction.
That was in early May.
Then on May 24, “Experience Ruston” — the Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau — announced it will award a $100,000 grant to the Friends of Ruston Skatepark.
Initial planning for construction of the skatepark began in 2017. But now the Friends of Ruston Skatepark find themselves only $38,000 shy of being able to break ground and begin construction on the skatepark.
“We are delighted to receive such wonderful support from Experience Ruston for Ruston Skatepark,” said Joey Slaughter, executive director of Friends of Ruston Skatepark. “This grant puts us closer to our goal of providing kids a safe place to skate.”
The mission statement of the Friends of Ruston Skatepark is to help provide a concrete skatepark and public art experience in the former municipal pool in Ruston. The Friends aim to create a safe, creative, art-centered park that improves the community and empowers youth while also serving individuals who might not participate in traditional group sports, as well as enhancing quality of life for the public through a space that values creativity, public art, and self-expression.
“Our organization is thrilled to be able to make this investment in our community,” said Amanda Carrier, Ruston Lincoln CVB President/CEO. “After meeting with the Friends of Ruston Skatepark team and hearing about their plans and vision for the park, our entire board of directors felt strongly that this was not only a wonderful addition to our community, but also a unique experience for visitors.”
Experience Ruston’s funding given to the Friends of Ruston Skatepark is the first of several grants the CVB plans to award over the next two years with the goal of funding various community projects that impact the tourism economy of Ruston & Lincoln Parish.
“The Friends of Ruston Skatepark has done a phenomenal job of fundraising for this project. It’s been incredible to watch them bring our community together in support,” Carrier said. “The CVB is honored to have the opportunity to help get the skatepark to their fundraising goal and make this long-held dream a reality.”
Phase I of the Ruston Skatepark’s construction will include concrete work for the skatepark itself, a walkway path surrounding the complex and the building of new restrooms for the facility.
Professor Kevin Singh’s CDAC architecture class at Louisiana Tech School of Design designed the bathroom and shade structures for the park. Plans are for the park to also have public art murals, and sculpture.
The Ruston Skatepark will not only provide run to area skateboard enthusiasts. It’s also expected to be beneficial to the city of Ruston itself.
“I believe the financial impact will be seen most by our downtown merchants and restaurants given the skatepark’s location,” Carrier said. “Locals and visitors alike will be able to easily enjoy all the amenities of our downtown and make it part of their experience.
“There is also quite a significant quality of life impact to having this skatepark built. It provides a safe place for kids and adults to skate, it promotes getting active, and it’s a beautification project for the city as well.”
The only question is will the skatepark attract visitors from afar who might spend a day or two in Ruston enjoying the facility.
“It’s hard to say at this point what the visitor expectation will be,” Carrier said. “However, having this asset opens up some really unique possibilities for skateboarding competitions and showcasing regional talent. We’re looking forward to working with the Friends of Ruston Skatepark to identify opportunities to promote further.
‘There are also individuals and groups who travel the country to skate at parks like this one. I believe the park being a part of The Skatepark Project and being able to utilize their audience, website, and map will aid significantly in getting exposure for the skatepark.”
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