Skateboarders rally to make Payne Skate Park Free
SARASOTA - Local skateboarders, young and old, are coming together to defend the Payne Skate Park as the city's lease comes to an end. Jake Ilardi, a local skate boarder said, "It's a thing of enjoyment. It's an art its people's passion. People love to skate. It's just for everybody and all ages."
That's the motto for locals at Payne Skate Park. But 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, there wasn't a skater in sight at the city-owned park.
Instead, advocates traded in their wheels for a seat at the skate park's first pre–proposal meeting as its contracted management's lease comes to a close in November. The new bidder's lease would begin January 1st, 2020.
The city is accepting bids through October 29th. City Recreation Programs Manager, Mark Hamilton described Payne Skate Park as, "...one of our greatest assets in our opinion. It's a great place for the kids to skate, spend their nights and evenings in a place where it's safe an monitored."
But to dozens of skaters, like Jake Ilardi, it's a second home he's been paying rent for since age 8. "Every time I would come here to skate, you would either have to pay $5 or buy a membership fee," he said. The entrance fee is a charge legally required by the city, similarly to the park's tennis courts; all profits go towards the leasee.
For parents in Tuesday's meeting, that's a fee some just can't afford. Tim Storck, Founder of 180 Skate, a local youth empowerment skate program said, "I have a parent that has seven kids right now and they go in and we let them in for free. The problem is if someone else comes in and is looking at it to run it as a business and then you're sending off these kids, who wouldn't be able to skate there."
Ilardi said some local skaters have resorted to driving to Bradenton or Tampa to skate for free. Now, skaters are hoping to work with the city to find a contractor, who is open to making the skate park free for all.
"I think the city can unite together to form one. We need to have more meetings, more get-togethers, and talk about more about what's going on in the skate park, what needs to be fixed, what can be done just to communicate more...communication is key." Ilardi said.