The city of Lafayette is not the first place anyone thinks of when the words “cutting edge” or “revolutionary” get tossed around, but when it comes to municipal skateparks, of which there are many in the state of Colorado, the tiny Boulder ’burb stands atop the heap.
So what happened in Lafayette to make its brand new skatepark, built adjacent to the Bob L. Burger Recreation Center at the intersection of Public and Baseline roads and scheduled to open on Dec. 11, such a groundbreaking affair? For one, it appears the city actually listened to those who know best what makes a skatepark either an endless source of fun or a lump of worthless concrete suitable for just about anything but skateboarding (we’re looking at you, Louisville).
“We are a cutting-edge department, and we’d accept nothing less than a cutting edge skatepark,” says Curt Cheesman, director of recreation and facility management for the Lafayette Recreation Center, looking out over the sprawling facility. “This was designed, built and skated by skaters.”
Cheesman says the city started by talking to area skateboarders about what they wanted in a skatepark, something a lot of cities do. The big difference between Lafayette and some municipalities is what came next: they took that information to the experienced folks at Team Pain, the Florida-based skatepark company responsible for mind-blowing parks in Roxborough, Colorado Springs and Aspen. Team Pain, headed by awardwinning veteran skater and builder Tim Payne, considered the skaters’ wish lists and the city’s own needs and came up with a design that is both functional and beautiful, “a piece of art,” according to Cheesman.
One of the things that first stands out to anyone entering the Lafayette Skate Park is the use of large, native stones as part of the architecture. Giant slabs of sandstone are deftly incorporated into the bowls. On the deck, a pair of skinny, solid granite quarter pipes jut from the concrete, offering not just a sharp visual contrast but also a fun and ridiculously challenging obstacle for skaters to test their mettle.
On the street course, real black marble ledges, benches and other obstacles offer the best possible
surface for skaters to grind and slide. The few places in the country where marble exists naturally in the architecture have long been coveted by skaters and defended like national treasures by over-zealous security guards and police. Now, here it is — heaps of the stuff — out in the open in a public skatepark. Ask any skateboarder: We have dreams about this.
“It’s different,” says Al Brunelle, an accomplished 18-year-old skater from Longmont who got to try out the park prior to the grand opening. “You don’t find [the various rock formations] at other parks. That’s what makes it fun. It’s by far my favorite in Colorado.”
Glen Charnoski, a veteran professional skateboarder living in Boulder, says Team Pain outdid itself in creating the Lafayette park.
“I’d say it’s probably the best and most creative park in Colorado now,” says Charnoski, who prefers the larger, deeper bowls the park has to offer.
Along with a street plaza with rails, stairs, ledges and other obstacles, the park features a combination minibowl and street area that flows into transitions at one end, leading to the bowls. The beginner bowl is mostly shallow, ranging from about three to six feet and combining metal coping and a tiled corner with perfect, slick pool coping. Next door is the advanced bowl, which bottoms out at around 12 feet with a foot of vertical.
With pool coping and tile all the way around, it is the perfect place for big vert skaters like Charnoski to do their thing.
“It’s just so smooth,” says Charnoski, who laments the outdated nature of his hometown park in Boulder’s Scott Carpenter Park. “The pool coping and tiles are such a pleasure. It looks cool and feels so good.”
In every way, Lafayette has a winner in its new skatepark. It may be one of many in some respects, but to the skaters who know, the ’burbs are where it’s at.
“These new modern parks make Boulder’s [Scott Carpenter Park] seem out of date,” says Charnoski. “It served its purpose, but the cement is rough and bumpy, and it’s overcrowded. That’s why we come out to the suburbs.”
Oakland L. Childers is a former professional journalist and owner of System Skateboarding, a skateboard shop opening this spring in Louisville.