Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mud Island Skatepark Slows Schedule

In a city where consensus is about as scarce as Grizzlies’ victories, the plan for a skatepark on Mud Island is about as close as it gets.

From the inception of the idea, the skatepark has amassed an impressive group of advocates, but none are more impressive than the grassroots supporters that come in all sizes, all ages and all colors.

All in all, the notion of building the skatepark at the southern tip of Mud Island – where it would be a dependable source of vibrancy and a magnet for skating families – is as close to a no brainer as any project we’ve seen for downtown Memphis.

We were hoping that the plans to build the park would be under way by now, but it’s hit the proverbial bump in the road. The Riverfront Development Corporation – which has pushed the project ahead – has now pushed the pause button, because it now wants to develop a master plan for Mud Island.

We can understand the reasons for this, but nonetheless, we are deeply disappointed that the project has slowed. The feasibility study for the skatepark showed that it is, in a word, feasible, and more to the point, it has the potential to be the preeminent skatepark location in the entire country.

While we are admittedly envious of the Louisville Skatepark – particularly how the mayor there acted as chief salesman for the project - that site near the river doesn’t come close to the proposed Mud Island site on the river. Even the imaginatively-challenged can easily envision the spectacular backdrop that the Memphis skatepark would have for nationally-televised competitions.

While the idea of animating the riverfront with a use this cool is reason enough for excitement, the chance to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Mud Island offers park operators much-needed opportunities for revenues and new activities.

We’ve not met anyone in years who we admire than Dr. Aaron Shafer, the St. Jude Children’s Hospital researcher spearheading this project. His work on the skate park is a reminder for Memphis as it tries to do better in attracting young professionals: Sometimes, it’s not the mega-project, but the smaller projects – the ones generating activity and vibrancy – that offer the most immediate returns on investment with this coveted demographic.

His diagnosis is that the skatepark would go a long way to keeping people like him in Memphis, and that’s as powerful a reason for building it as we can think of. To his credit, however, Dr. Shafer’s motivation is to create a place where at-risk children can find a wholesome environment for exercise and where the $3 million skatepark can be used as the lure that brings them into contact with role models and mentors for their lives.

Here’s hoping that the RDC can find a way to expedite the decision and move the project ahead. In the meantime, if you’d like to stay up-to-date on the skatepark and register your support for it, visit Skatelife Memphis blog.


sherman said...

Skatepark on Mud Island is the best idea I have heard since RDC ever showed up. In the late '80s there was a skate contest event on Mud Island that drew a ton of young skaters to the Island when no one was going there on a regular Saturday afternoon.

If done right, this park would be a major draw for skaters from all over the country. I agree it could be the best locale in the country--skating on the Mighty Mississippi, using the environment you got (currently used 2 days a year to shoot off fireworks) to your own city's advantage.

Beats the hell outta the floating dock thing and would be used a whole lot more.

gatesofmemphis said...

hear, hear!

What are the reasons for developing a master plan, and why should this interfere with the Mud Island skatepark?

Harvey said...

I second Gates of Memphis' sentiment.

MRC-T said...

I am ever hopeful that this skatepark will go through and am a huge fan and supporter of Aaron's, as well!

Anonymous said...

A skatepark on Mud Island would be awesome. I recently took up roller skating and one of my biggest complaints is there is no where in midtown/downtown to safely skate. The paths in Overton Park and on the riverfront have too many bumps and gaps for a novice skater such as myself.

Anonymous said...

But now I look at their plans and it doesn't seem to accommodate anything but skateboarding.... :(

Anonymous said...

If you look at some of their older posts, I think that the park plans include the use by roller-skaters, skater and bikes. The South end is around 2 acres so there would be plenty of room for all..

Anonymous said...

This was a chance for the RDC to show that it gets it.

Guess not.

Anonymous said...

As with most things, building a skatepark at Mud Island River Park is not as easy as it seems - feasible, yes; easy - no.

First among the challenges is raising the $3 million it will take to build the preeminent skatepark in the country as mentioned. Even a really nice skatepark on this site will cost $1 million to construct with the proper scale and amenities. Our friends at Skatelife Memphis are to be admired for their tenacity and commitment; however, even they have said the funding for this project is more than they are capable of raising. And while we hope that there will be philanthropic dollars available to help fund a project like this, none have surfaced at this time.

Secondly, both the City of Memphis and Shelby County Government are jointly studying another plan for Mud Island River Park that encompasses the land being considered for the skatepark. As long as the Ericson Group's plan for the Pyramid and its spin-off, Harbor Island, is on the table, it's nearly impossible to move forward with construction of a skatepark or any other new amenity on Mud Island River Park.

The RDC does believe that the best way to sort through the sometimes competing and oft times collaborative ideas is to have a public planning process with input from citizens across the city to discuss the highest and best uses for the property, putting all the possibilities on the table. No entity wants to see things progress at Mud Island River Park more than the RDC. It's our mission. But we want to move forward in an intentional, civic-minded, fiscally responsible way. We encourage you to help us do that.

Benny Lendermon

sherman said...

Thanks for commenting, Mr. Lendermon! We have total confidence in you! Anyone who can raise $25 million+ for the floating dock thing can easily raise $1 million for this amenity that will not only draw people from all over the world but also from the suburban areas around Memphis to a currently unused piece of real estate. Frankly, that's why we pay you 6 figures.

When you are ready to raise the money, I will be the 1st in line to help you fill up Mud Island amphitheater several times next September with the best musicians & pro skaters available for these benefits. Rest assured, those concerts will be well attended. This is something tangible that the community will get behind. Unleash the dogs while we're still in skating shape. Please don't let this great idea get master planned out of reality into some bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.

Buck Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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