By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
An idea to seek on-site advertising to fund a skateboard park in town is not being met with enthusiasm by Montclair’s Skateboard Club, which had been lobbying for a park in town.
Planning board member Martin Schwartz has suggested an advertising-marketing sponsorship model using on-site placement of promotional signage to fund the park after he met with Catalyst Experiential of Newtown Square while attending the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in November. They told him the company’s on-site promotion signage displays would generate enough revenue to cover the complete design and construction costs of a skateboard park.
Using a collaborative municipal market approach, Catalyst Experiential has built a $2.5 million dog park for a town in Bucks County, Pa., an amphitheatre in Chester County, Pa., and an EMS facility in Mount Laurel, N.J., Schwartz said.
A skate club founded last year at Montclair High School, with junior Antonello Terrano leading the way, now boasts 30 members. After three other failed attempts in the past 15 years to get a skate park, this new generation is moving forward with many of the young skaters attending a December council meeting lobbying for a home.
A petition backing a skate park by the high school club and Skate Essex has garnered 3,150 signatures, and an October free-skate session drew over 200 attendees ranging in age from 5 to 70.
“Our main obstacle is that the Township of Montclair does not offer a specified area that allows skateboarding,” Terrano wrote in the petition. “Therefore, we find ourselves being kicked out of most places we go to skate and at odds with local residents, shop owners and police. By organizing a safe and fun place for aspiring skateboarders, we can avoid being labelled as criminals or delinquents for the sole reason of having nowhere to practice our sport.”
The club’s advisor, Jaimie Siwinski, a Skate Essex member, said that the club welcomes Schwartz’s support but that Catalyst’s model — which would use mostly LED-lit signage — is not something they see as fitting into Montclair.
They envision a 12,000-square-foot skateboard park incorporating art into an existing park such as at Erie, Rand or Nishuane parks, all of which are being considered by town officials as possible hosts, Siwinski said.
“I am not sure billboards and the LED lighting would fit into Montclair,” said Siwinski.
Skate parks are cropping up across the country, such as one that opened last year in Detroit, which also features local art, and Faber Skatepark in Staten Island that incorporates seating areas. The privately-funded park spaces are used by both skaters and non-skaters depending on the time of day.
Siwinski said there is money to be found through grants with the Tony Hawk Foundation and even Green Acres.
He said that at a cost of $45 to $65 per square foot to build an average skateboard park, the park would cost $540,000 to $780,000.
Schwartz said his idea was just a suggestion and is worthy of investigation by the township and town manager since the town has been looking to get a skate park off the ground since 2005 with no real funding in place.
“The reality is that putting ad-sponsorship views into the public space may not work here, and this may not be best. That’s a conversation,” Schwartz said. “Rather than preemptively dismiss a helpful idea right off the bat without full due diligence, as if the park design and build money is already in the bank, a more prudent path I believe is to have all funding opportunities at the table. Then let the council and town manager decision-makers determine which is/are ultimately best for the township and which can really close and deliver the money after full discussion and review.”
Schwartz believes that a dedicated skate park here even with signage could be tastefully integrated within a local park, but said that the advertising can be placed off-site such as on the parking decks.
Although Siwinski said Schwartz did not reach out to him or the club with his idea, Schwartz said he did approach council members Robin Schlager, Renee Baskerville and Sean Spiller to review his sponsorship concept before consideration by the entire council.
For now the group is looking for a semi-permanent spot, such as a tennis court or basketball court, where ramps and half pipes can be put up and taken down during certain hours.
Terran said that police have been called to move skaters out of parks, and signs were recently posted at Rand Park that read “no skating,” which some say send a message of hostility toward the skaters.
Baskerville said she and Schlager are meeting with Director of Community Services Steve Wood, and that Rand seems like the best spot for the park.
Schlager did not return an email requesting an update on the skateboard park initiative, the on-site advertising suggestion or funding for the park overall.
Whether or not the skateboard park could be funded using signage sponsorships, Schwartz said he believes Montclair could generate more non-taxpayer-generated revenue from a stepped up economic development and grant-seeking efforts.
“We are leaving hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars on the table from missed foundation, government, corporate and high-value-donor private solicitations over the years,” he said. “We do have some grant submissions, but they are not systematically undertaken, tracked and lobbied. These all could be greatly enhanced by more collaboration and bundled project initiatives with our many non-profit organizations here, even the Board of Education.”