By Billy Liggett | Guy from The Rant

Maybe it’s the riveting Tony Hawk documentary I watched on HBO this week. Perhaps it’s reading the news out of Southern Pines that a grassroots effort is working to secure the funding for one in that growing city.

Or maybe it’s the dozens and dozens of trips I’ve made to Apex in the past few years with two young boys who love nothing more than taking their boards and scooters and hitting a quarter pipe at breakneck speeds before going airborne.

But I’m a big believer in skate parks. And with growth and quality of life becoming a big theme in this publication for the last few months, I feel like the next logical step toward “having things for people, young and old, to do this town” is building a kick-ass skate park.

I’m no expert on the subject, and my skateboard experience began and ended when I was about 12 and realized riding my bike was less dangerous and got me a lot farther in less time.

But that was the 80s, man. Public skate parks back then were pretty much relegated to the West Coast and a few major cities to the east. As of 2019, there were more than 3,500 skate parks in the United States, and statistics abound about the growth of the sport and its impact on young people.

You’d like to hear some of these statistics? Sweet.

Roughly 70 percent of all skateboarders are 18 and younger, and a growing number of them (now at 24 percent) are girls. Skateboarding joined the Summer Olympics in 2021, and 80 athletes took part. And 98,000 skateboarders ended up in the emergency room in 2017, but while that might sound like a big number, consider that roughly 435,000 basketball players went to the ER that same year.

But I’m not swayed by the statistics, no matter how well researched and handsomely presented they may be. My claim that Sanford needs a skate park is a direct result of what I’m seeing in downtown Apex.

The Rodgers Family Skate Plaza is a 13,000-square-foot, four-tiered park that mimics street skating conditions and includes competitive skateboarding elements. It has a bowl, several quarter pipes, rails, ramps, curbs and all sorts of things I don’t know the proper words for.

On any given day — I usually bring my boys during the week while their sister attends a nearby dance class — the park is bustling. When the weather is right, it’s just about packed. And what has struck me most in the several times I’ve been there is that the “skate community” — from adults to teens on down to elementary-aged kids on their scooters — is one of tolerance and patience. The adults (mostly) don’t mind all the kids, and a landed jump or trick will get the attention of everybody.

Skateboarding is a helluva sport. It’s difficult, it’s demanding and it requires practice and skill. On the flip side, it’s rewarding and fun to watch. It’s also a great sport for the kid who doesn’t necessarily fit in on the [fill-in-the-blank] ballteam.

Speaking of which, it might seem early and ungrateful to bring this up just as the county has approved a huge multi-sport complex. But these things take time. Southern Pines fundraisers are looking to raise about $350,000 for their future park, and a recent report from The Pilot says they’re only about a quarter of the way there. Time and planning. Time and planning. Time and planning.

A skate park would fit in Sanford, just as well as a soccer field or a basketball court. Consider this my attempt at planting an ear worm on the subject. If anybody wants to take this a step [or ollie] further, let’s talk, brah.

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