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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Tampa's Bro Bowl on National Register of Historic Places

TAMPA — The Bro Bowl in Tampa is skateboarding's first national landmark.

On Friday the National Park Service listed the Bro Bowl at Perry Harvey Sr. Park on its weekly announcement of sites named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The skateboard bowl, which opened in 1978, was designed by a city parks and recreation employee. It is one of only three surfer-style concrete bowls remaining in the country. Others are in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Jacksonville.

Local skateboard enthusiast Shannon Bruffett spearheaded a campaign to earn landmark status for the Bro Bowl. He spent about three years researching skateboarding and skate bowls.

“It's a great sense of accomplishment, so close to my heart, and such a valuable asset to Tampa,” said Bruffett, director of the Tampa Chapter of Florida Skateboarding Heritage Foundation. “It's a milestone.”

In recent months the Bro Bowl has been at the center of sometimes emotional debates over its future.

The city is planning an approximately $6 million redesign of Perry Harvey Sr. Park that would honor the history and leaders of Central Avenue, a segregation-era business and entertainment district, and the Scrub, a community founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.

The skate bowl is in the pathway of a planned history walk. City officials want to tear down the Bro Bowl and build a new $600,000 facility in another location in the park. Pieces of the Bro Bowl would become public art.

For now, the park's and the skate bowl's future are on hold while city officials, members of the black community and skateboarders try to strike a compromise.

Jannus Research has been hired by the Tampa Housing Authority to explore options with members of a volunteer committee representing opposing opinions. The process is required when federal funds are awarded to a project with possible historical significance. A portion of the funds for the park's redesign are from a federal grant awarded to Tampa Housing Authority.


One meeting has been held so far, said Kenneth Hardin, president of Jannus Research.

“Everyone is working diligently for a solution,” he said. “We're cautiously optimistic.”

The listing on the register was expected, Hardin said. “The goal is to keep it listed but also make the park a working park,” he said. “Tampa should be proud of this (the listing).”

The focus is on ensuring that Tampa doesn't lose the $600,000 in federal funds, said local historian Fred Hearns, a member of the volunteer committee. He has supported the city's plans to build a new skate bowl facility.

“I've never been against skateboarding,” Hearns said. “My issue is where it is located.”

Bruffett hopes the Bro Bowl will be the first of several skateboard bowls that can be honored.

Recreational facilities, including swimming pools and baseball stadiums, have been named to the register before, said Paul Lusignan, historian with the federal register program.

But he said, “Skateboarding is something we have not looked at previously in terms of the recreational aspect. It may be the start of a trend or maybe not.”

Nearly 100 landmarks in Hillsborough County are on the register, including the Tampa Bay Hotel on the University of Tampa campus, the Jackson rooming house on Zack Street and Old City Hall.

For now, the landmark status won't change anything for the skate park, said Bob McDonaugh, the city's economic opportunity administrator. The city respects the skate bowl's history, he said, but “we have to go all the way through the process.”

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