City agrees to give activists 'first dibs' on new Venice skate park
A skateboarding group was outraged when ASA Entertainment advertised Supergirl Jam as the park's debut event. City parks officials say that was never the plan: 'They are not using the new skate park.'
Skaters are eager to use new Venice facility
Skateboarder John Smith, 20, practices his jumps at Venice Beach, where the L.A. parks departmentÂ’s $2.5-million skate park is slated to open in the fall.
After spending more than 15 years fighting for a place to show off their kickflips and ollies, a group of Venice activists weren't about to sit back and let commercial promoters skate off with their work.
So Warner Bros. Consumer Products and ASA Entertainment won't be inaugurating the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks' new $2.5-million public skateboard park at Venice Beach after all.
The two companies last month announced that their Labor Day Supergirl Jam would be the premiere event at the new three-basin skateboard complex next to the Venice boardwalk near Windward Avenue.
The event would be "in conjunction with the opening of Venice's amazing new beachside skate park," the companies bragged in a July 24 announcement. The female skateboarders "will be the first to compete in Venice's brand new skate park, christening the unique course with their skill and finesse."
Members of the Venice Surf and Skateboard Assn. reacted as if they'd been smacked with a concrete face-plant.
"Did these people think we just fell off our skateboards yesterday?" fumed Ger-I Lewis, an association leader who helped the city plan and oversee construction of the new park.
Another longtime Venice skater, Anthony Converse, said the Supergirl Jam announcement "has the local community and greater skateboard community in a near-insurrection level of outrage and feeling of betrayal."
Outside the construction fence, skateboarder John Smith gazed longingly at the unfinished basins. "We have to have first crack at it. It's wrong for an outside group to get first dibs," the 20-year-old said.
Last week, various skateboarders and skating groups complained to parks department officials, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Venice-area Councilman Bill Rosendahl that the opening of the skateboard park should be staged by and for locals.
"Without this group of concerned citizens, there would be no public skate park in Venice," they wrote in a letter bearing the names of a dozen people.
This week, parks officials agreed. They pledged that "the people who have been waiting forever for that skate park will be the ones" who inaugurate it and skate there first.
"It was never intended" that a commercial event would be the first to use the 16,000-square-foot park's three swimming-pool-size basins, its rails and half-pipes, said Lydia Ritzman, principal recreation supervisor for the Venice area. "They are not using the new skate park."
She said the park may not even be completed by then. No opening date has been set, but Ritzman pointed to late September or early October.
Supergirl Jam's use of Venice Beach is still tentative. "We're trying to find a place for them," Ritzman said.
Warner Bros. officials referred inquiries about the Labor Day event to ASA Entertainment.
ASA Chief Executive Rick Bratman said the televised Venice Beach event will go on and will even include a snow-packed ramp for snowboarding. He said the skate park announcement was "a horrible miscommunication" by "publicists who put out the wrong information."
But parks department spokeswoman Jane Kolb said it may have been a case of wishful thinking.
"I think that by announcing it, they assumed it would be true," she said.