Fix To Ride – Interview

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Kennington Park is one of London’s oldest parks and can be dated back to the 1600’s in the record books. It wasn’t until 1853 that this large piece of common ground officially had gates and fences put up and turned into a park. The cost of turning the Common into a park is estimated at £3,620, ironic really as you can only imagine how much it’s costing Converse Skateboarding to revamp the skatepark alone!? The Skatepark was built in 1978 and has since been a huge part of London skateboarding history and visited by people around the world but has obviously received a large amount of wear and tear…

Converse Skateboarding Europe teamed up with California Skateparks to give the park a much needed tidy up. The revamp includes an overall ‘smooth out’, adding a bunch of contemporary skate specific obstacles and a dash of colour!

California Skateparks are widely regarded as the best skatepark builders in the world and boast a large portfolio of parks and plazas from Camp Woodward Beijing to all of the Street League parks. They are best known for their amazing concrete bowl parks and bring their own creative edge to everything they build which is a nice touch in a day when skateparks are being built by playground manufactures.

This is California Skateparks first UK build and is a pretty momentous occasion. We went to Kennington bowl mid construction to speak to Vice President and Head of Global Business development Bill Minadeo for a mini interview that will hopefully give you a better insight into this innovative project.

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How long have you been in the business of designing and building skateparks?

Well I’ve been working with California Skateparks for 5 years now, and been doing all sorts of concrete skateparks, and that’s pretty much where my life is now, all concrete.

So it’s predominantly Concrete?

Yep, for me it’s all concrete, we still do some wood stuff but that’s a totally different division.

What about background wise? Did you come from a skate background or construction background? or a bit of both?

Well actually I come from a skate background, I’ve been skating since the 70’s, before this place was even built, eek. But I’m an architect, so yeah formally you know my schooling is in landscape architecture… I was doing that for a while but there really wasn’t a massive market for building skateboard parks back then. But we started building and designing some parks, well designing it and letting other people build it but that didn’t work out, so I started to learn more about actual construction, I’ve always been a good carpenter you know, good with wood. Then I learnt a bit about concrete, kind of self taught then I did some construction courses, started doing my own thing and learned along the way.

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Well hopefully we are gonna build more over here, that’s our goal, well you know  it’s not our only goal, we wanna expand and do more work in the UK as well as Europe. Did a nice job in Germany last year. So we have a good partnership here in the UK with Mark and One Skateparks that’s going real well, we have a good relationship with Neil from Converse so we really hope that this will lead to other projects and kind of bring our style of skateparks to the UK, and build some more proper type skateparks. Not that there aren’t any proper type skateparks over here but just add our style of skateparks. We have a couple more UK projects this year and hopefully plenty more to come!

How long is it going to take you to build this park from start to finish?

Well this park is a little unique, I got here last week and we have around a week to go so a little around 2 weeks start to finish. Its been a little challenging because the park was built back in 1976 and its all pre fabricated units that are a little thinner than we thought they were, we didn’t know exactly. So some of what we wanted to do like pour into the existing structure we couldn’t do because we weren’t sure about the stability of it. We had to modify the plan a bit, I wish we had a little bit more time but hey.

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Wow that’s a tough question. I really like the Hudson River project at pier 62, it was the first time we used structural foam and building on the pier presented a lot of different challenges plus we got to build a load of tranny and the park turned out great. Its always fun to work on projects overseas because not only are you working, you get to meet a bunch of new people and skate places you haven’t skated and also you know, immerse your self in the culture a little which I really enjoy. A couple of things over in China were fun, but challenging to the point where it almost wasn’t fun. I just look forward to doing a load more and meeting new people, but yeah my favorite park when it all boils down to it is Hudson River.

What was it like working on the new Danny Way mega ramp?

Hahaha, well it was wet! Santiago (pointing over to Santiago skimming the bottom of a transition) poured a lot of that concrete, he did a lot of that but I was mainly office guy for that, I did a lot of the drawings, got materials and got all the guys in order. But a lot of my crew guys are from Hawaii, so a lot of my guys were over there for the whole time. They did a great job and it turned out really good. But hey it’s Danny, Danny as usual, pushing skateboarding to another level.

And you guys facilitating it.

Well you know, we do what we can!

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Yeah, the more the merrier! Id love for every place I go to make a little spot, you know just a little thing here and there tucked away. We try to do that kinda thing when we can but yeah, the more the merrier!

Do you have any advice for guys out there that want to get into skateboard park construction?

My advice to people who want to get into skatepark construction is to just do it! It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. The biggest thing is attention to detail because that’s where parks either go good or go bad. But most guys that have a passion for skateboarding know that already. It’s not easy work but its super rewarding, especially if you’re a skateboarder. But it’s rewarding because you make something that you leave behind that makes people happy, it’s great and makes the hard work worth it!, but yeah if you wanna get into skatepark building call me! Maybe we can work something out!

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