Hundreds turn out for opening of Winston-Salem’s first skateboard park

Skateboarders watch each other practice tricks at the indoor skate park during the Fairground Friday event, held June 27. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

Skateboarders watch each other practice tricks at the indoor skate park during the Fairground Friday event, held June 27. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The nearly 700 people — teenagers, young adults and parents— who made their way to the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds on Friday night were part of history: They were there when officials opened the first skateboard park in Winston-Salem’s history, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The first skateboarders arrived around 4 p.m., three hours before the park officially opened, said Ed McNeal, a city spokesman.

By 8:15 p.m., more than 30 skateboarders were showing off their moves in the park in the Education Building at the fairgrounds.

The skateboard park opening was part of the city’s Fairgrounds Fridays series, which the city began planning in January, officials said.

The events are designed to give teens a safe place to hang out on Friday nights.

The first event comes just two weeks after hundreds of teens gathered downtown and several fights broke out. At least six youths were taken into custody during that incident.

Downtown was quiet Friday night.

The first Fairground Friday featured a King BMX Stunt show, music and free arcade games.

“Fairgrounds Friday and the skateboard park were a success,” said City Manager Lee Garrity. “We had a great crowd, even though it rained.”

Friday night, the big draw appeared to be the skateboarders as they zipped around the course.

Tim Grant, the city’s director of recreation and parks, said the city spent $75,000 to set up the indoor park. City officials want to gauge the public’s interest in the skateboard park before they decide whether it will be a permanent city amenity, Grant said.

The city is looking for an outdoor site for the park, Grant said.

Skateboarders say the city should have a permanent park.

“I love skateboarding, and I would do anything to support it,” Benny Williams, 21, said.

Building a skateboard park in Winston-Salem has been discussed among city officials, residents and skateboarders since the late 1980s.

The opening of a skateboard park in Kernersville in May 2005 spurred discussions of a similar park in Winston-Salem.

At the time, city officials talked about building a skateboard park near downtown, looking at such neighborhoods as Washington Park, Parkland Park, Hanes Park, Winston Square Park and Happy Hill Park, but the plan never came to fruition.

Opponents said a skateboard park would be noisy, and some adults and business owners said that skaters had shabby appearances that offended the adults’ sense of what was proper for young people.

Proponents maintained that a skateboard park was needed to allow people to skateboard safely. Skateboarders also complained that police often cited them for illegal skating on downtown sidewalks, open spaces and parking lots.

Rodney Snow, 34, said came to the fairgrounds Friday with five of his friends.

He said the skateboard park is a good idea.

“We need something like this in here,” Snow said.

Cody Anderson, 22, said that skateboarding in the Education Building was better than skateboarding in the streets.

“It’s a form of exercise,” Anderson said. “Skating in here beats getting injured in the streets or getting caught by the cops.”

If you go

Fairgrounds Fridays will be held each Friday in July, except for July 4. The event starts at 7 p.m. and teens of all ages are welcome. Admission is free.

The skateboard park will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 2 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 1.

Skateboarders are required to wear a helmet, kneepads and elbow pads.