ST. PETERSBURG — After years of planning and waiting, skateboarders will finally get their skate park.
The city broke ground Friday on a 28,000-square-foot Campbell Park Regional Skate Park near Tropicana Field. It is expected to be finished by early 2018, and when it opens it will be one of the largest skate parks in Florida.
Demand for the skate park was enormous said St. Petersburg parks and recreation director Michael Jefferis.
"Of all the projects I've ever been involved with, this is the one with the most public input I've ever seen," he said. "Every time we've had a public meeting — at last count six — we've had the council chambers or the rec center full."
There are two other skate parks in the St. Petersburg parks system, but local skaters wanted something bigger and with more features.
In August 2015, the City Council approved funding the state-of-the-art facility at Campbell Park and had hoped to have it open by winter 2016. But the project was delayed. Then in May 2016, the council approved a contract with Team Pain Skate Parks to begin the design and construction phase. The hope then was to have the park opened by the spring or summer of 2017.
That also didn't happen. Instead, the project was delayed again. Jefferis said the city spent months working with a neighborhood association and to ensure that the contractor and designer of the park would hire local businesses.
"That slowed it down a bit," he said. "But I think it was well worth it."
Jefferis has no doubts that the skate park will quickly become popular once it opens.
It has something for everyone, he said. There's a flat plaza course for young children and older skaters looking to relax, plus a course with benches and curbs that's more reminiscent of a street skate park for others.
There's also a large cloverleaf skating bowl and a deep bowl that Jefferis said experienced skateboarders are excited about. It is 11 ½-feet deep.
"That really puts us into the extreme category." Jefferis said.
He expects the skate park to attract national events. It's strategically located less than a half mile from a large hotel and is close to the downtown corridor.
"We see this as an economic engine," Jefferis said.
During the planning phase, the parks department worked closely with local skating groups to build a minority mentoring program to help teach kids how to skate. They found several takers.
"We have a couple organizations that say that they not only want to teach kids how to skate," Jefferis said, "but they want to come in and help with homework, tutoring and mentoring."