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Saturday, March 2, 2024

A New Skate of Mind

At long last, Evansville skateboarders have a concrete park

After years of making do with a dilapidated, small skateboarding facility, Evansville now sports one of the best and largest for miles.

Sunset Skatepark on the city’s Downtown riverfront, near Mickey’s Kingdom playground, opened in mid-December.

Photo of Taylor Shirek by Robby Zimmermann

The original design covered 24,000 square feet, but architect and builder Hunger Skateparks added 3,000 more. The bowl of slopes and rails is a concrete paradise for skaters of all skill levels, who no longer have to leave town to do their tricks.

Its construction was a years-long crusade for skaters and skating advocates.

“Most of the skateboarders here, since we didn’t have an appropriate park, would go traveling to one every weekend, staying in hotels and spending on food and experiences around it,” says Heather Vaught, an Evansville Redevelopment Commission member and small business owner.

Robby Zimmermann of Evansville has loved skating since he got his first board for Christmas at age 10. Also a skilled carpenter, Zimmermann was hired by Hunger Skateparks to be part of the crew that built Sunset Skatepark.

A 40,000-square-foot skatepark in Louisville, Kentucky, has reaped dividends for that city, and Evansville could see similar economic benefits, Zimmermann says.

“Sunset Park attracts not only professional-level skaters but also those just starting out,” Zimmermann says. “There are plenty of obstacles of various difficulty levels. The park was built by a phenomenal team of committed tradesmen, ensuring a quality park for years to come.”

The city pledged $650,000 to the skate- park, and major private donors included the Welborn Baptist Foundation, CenterPoint Energy, Neil and Kaitlin Woods, and a nonprofit foundation established by pro skateboarder Tony Hawk.

Photo by Robby Zimmermann

But Vaught says a stack of small donations that totaled $20,000 was critical because it demonstrated how badly Evansville skaters and fans wanted a park, and it convinced those with deeper pockets to become involved.

Indiana has 23 concrete skateparks, and until now Evansville did not despite being the state’s third-largest city. The West Side’s long-outdated Lamasco Skatepark is shut down, and the city Parks and Recreation Department envisions a bicycle park at that site.

Modern concrete skateparks, Vaught says, require little regular maintenance and have a 30-year lifespan.

Skateboarders say that now, Evansville is a destination for those who enjoy the thrill of getting some air. Vaught is relieved that the city’s time finally arrived.

“I felt pretty confident we would (finish the project)” Vaught says. “I just didn’t know how long it would take. I’m very happy to get here.”

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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