“It’s made out of old tennis shoes?” The look on most kids’ faces was priceless. And I admit that when offered a skateboard to “try some tricks” the surface began looking awful hard for shoe rubber… But it’s true, Nike teamed up with Paul Rodriguez (aka P-Rod) and the LA84 Foundation to build a new kind of skate park, made out of recycled materials including old shoes.
The vibe at the event was awesome. I showed up over two hours before the grand opening and there were already over 200 skaters as young as age 5 skating around. Before the park was officially unveiled, skaters killed time by meeting new people, doing tricks for their friends, or waiting in line to be one of the first to get P-Rod and the rest of the Nike Skateboard Team’s autographs (some came over 5 hours early just to be first!).
The event took place on “go ride a skate board” and which happens to fall on father’s day. Fittingly, the event officially kicked off with a humorous speech by P-Rod’s father Paul Rodriguez Sr. As he switched off between English and Spanish for the widely Latino/a community, Paul shared stories of his son growing up in the nearby neighborhood and what it was like watching his son become a professional skate boarder.
When the park was finally opened for skating, literally hundreds of kids rushed the park to say hi to P-Rod and ride the new ramps, stairs and rails. Order was maintained through sheer awe as the pro riders started doing huge tricks over the stair gap.Some riders watched, while others ventured to different areas of the large park to create their own skate sessions for family and community members to watch.
Seeing all the young skaters that came out to this event made me realize how important places like this are for kids. This park in particular was created to look and act like real street skate spots rather than a cage filled with ramps. While older and hardcore skaters will continue to seek additional street spots, for younger and new skaters this place offers a legal and safe place to practice and hang out, which ultimately will attract and keep more youth in the sport.