Venice ‘Out Front’ Skatepark Opens on the Beach

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By Amy V. Dewhurst

After 9 months of building, 10 years of lobbying, and 30 years of Skateboard History, Venice’s “Out Front” is finally being immortalized with it’s own park. This Saturday, October 3, 2009, The Dennis ‘Polar Bear’ Agnew Skatepark will open.

The much anticipated 2.5 million dollar renovation was made possible with funds secured by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, including; from Damson Oil Facility Restoration Funds,  Venice Area Surplus Real Property Trust Funds and The Quimby Fund (amongst others). RRM Design Groups, Wormhoudt, Inc and The VSA designed and constructed this iconic esplanade which includes a bowl, 5 mini-bowls with hips, snake run, combi-pool and street course (handrails and funboxes).

The fate of the 1500 square feet west of Windward has long been disputed. Local residents, city officials, multi-national corporations and even the LA Kings have struggled for control of ‘The Pit’ since the Venice Pavilion was destroyed in 2000. The completion of the first sand-built Skatepark on American Soil (which will forever change the silhouette of a Venice Beach Sunset) is a true testament to the power of intention. For the past decade the Venice Surf and Skate Alliance (with the help of Heidi Lemon/Skateparks USA) has worked tirelessly, lobbying, organizing, acting as city-planner and working with the (sometimes ignorant) demands of The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

In Masao Miyashiro and Ian Congdon’s documentary “1500 Sq Feet” (slated to premiere 2010), viewers are lead through a series of interviews outlining the Skatepark’s history from conception to birth. Among the culturally defining interviewees are Zephyr Team co-founders Jeff Ho and Skip Englebloom; Original Z-Boy and Horizons West Savior Nathan Pratt; Curator of the sub-culture and Z-Boy, Ray Flores; Famed photojournalist and Dogtown historian Craig Stecyk; Legendary skateboarder Jay Adams; Local icon and co-owner of Venice Originals Cesario ‘Block’ Montaño; Dogtown Skates Owner and Original Zephyr Team Shredder Jim Muir,; Venice Cruiser’s Thomas Duggan; Thrasher Magazine Photographer Chuck Katz; and Professional Skaters including Pat Gnoho (Santa Monica Airlines) and Christian Hasoi. A recurring sentiment amongst these pillars of Skate culture is one of gratitude. Gratitude to the two men who, against all odds (bureaucratic, financial and logistical) are responsible for the Skatepark’s assemblance, Geri Lewis and Jesse Martinez.

Life-long Venice Residents (and skaters) Lewis and Martinez formed the VSA in 1999 in an effort to bring a park back home (to Venice, where it belongs!). Ten years has a tidy ring to it. However, in practice that’s 3,650 days of “Bringing the park to what a consulting firm would charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for. Campaigning, lobbying, planning, to reviewing designs, in conjunction with architects, to getting community input, inspiring the kids to having our hands in the construction, hands literally in the concrete. Establishing a safety patrol, around the clock, someone to deter vandalism, graffiti” says Lewis. It is the hope of the VSA that the skatepark will serve the community, “not only by creating jobs and programming, but by giving local youth a sense of ownership, a sense of pride.”

This Saturday, when that ribbon is cut, not only will America’s premiere Skatepark open it’s doors to skaters worldwide, but if you are lucky enough, you can watch as two people (with unparalleled commitment to this culture and this community) have their dream come true…

Infinite Thanks to Geri and Jesse. Love, Venice.

For more info on the VSA go to; venicesurfandskateboardassociation.blogspot.com. For more info on 1500 Sq Feet Check out; www.cell-lessproductions.com.

For more info on the Skate Park Stop by Venice Originals! 1525 Pacific @ Windward.

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