IASC Update April 1998

You and Your Skatepark

Sometimes it is difficult to accept the notion of change. There are all sorts of business mantras out there; I guess people take large portions of their hard-earned money and give it to others who perform a service by announcing, “If you want the same results, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want your business to grow, if you really want better results, then changes will have to be made.” (Look for my new book, Excellent Changes For Your Excellent Business–How To Prepare Now For The Next Millennium. I’ll be on Oprah in a few weeks, and then sales will go through the roof–or the floor.)

Change seems simple enough until you try and figure out just what it is that needs changing. That calls for decisions, which become another series of workshops. Decisions Of Excellence By Excellent Deciders is my book for that series. My introductory presentation will coincide with the release of an exciting new video series, Excellent Changes In Decision Making For The Next Millennium. There is no end to this madness. Book-store avalanches in the self-help section have been known to maim and take lives.

Which has what to do with your skatepark? Plenty, because according to surveys and market research, the law of averages suggests that you probably don’t have a public skatepark, and more than likely, there isn’t a skatepark within fifteen miles of you–yet. That’s what this has to do with you–changing the probability chart. Changing the survey results. Changing your life. Changing the lives of your customers, and most importantly, changing the lives of your not-yet customers.

Which means you will need to stop doing what you’re doing now–not having a public skatepark–and make the decisions necessary to create one. This decision is not included in any video or any book. It’s your decision. It’s your business. Do you want it to grow? Will you change, or will you stay the same (and fade away as the millennium brings us the New World Order)?

Even though more than 40 public skateparks will open and be skated this year in California, and even though dozens more will be completed in Washington, and even though other states will also open public skateparks this year, there are still more communities and more cities and more towns without public skateparks than there are those that have them. In fact, 99.7 percent of U.S. cities and communities do not have public skateparks among their recreational facilities.

The potential for change is enormous. The opportunity has never been greater. Now is the time for you to make the difference. Now is the time to ready your business for the immediate and the long-term future by changing what you do. Get directly involved in the successful development of public skateparks in your area. You can do this. If you don’t, who will?

The First Step: Follow The Leader

Make the commitment and decide who will be the spokesperson–who will be “the one.” The outspoken retailer is sometimes accused of self-interest by suspicious local-government types (“Your only interest in this park is to expand your business … “). Which may be true, in your case, and is therefore something to consider. “Public skateparks provide a safe place for kids to practice their sport of choice,” sounds really good coming from a frustrated parent who is fed up with their kid getting hassled from local law enforcement. Who is the leader? Their wardrobe isn’t too important, but they should be comfortable when conversing with city-government folks (otherwise known as strangers).

The Second Step: Local Government

Determine what policies and which decision makers control your community’s public parks. There is a spectrum of possibilities in this regard: district supervisors, committees, county departments, city commissioners, townships, and councils (this is the United States–we thrive on what is known as “local government”). Public libraries offer directories (surveys indicate public librarians are one of our greatest and least-recognized national resources), or there’s always the direct approach–go to city hall and ask. From my own personal files: Next to the Field Museum in Chicago, alongside Solider Field (no relation), is the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Chicago. I walked over from the museum, asked for the director’s office (third floor), walked up (the escalator was being repaired) to his secretary, introduced myself, and without an appointment, without a phone call, found myself in pleasant conversation with the man (he looks like Wilford Brimley) in charge of all recreational activities for the entire city of Chicago. “Skateboard parks?” he muttered, “Never thought about it before. Where do I get information?”

The Third Step: Determine Details (Possibilities)

Approach the decision makers with objective questions based upon the details of your community. How many public parks are in your town? Are any of these parks used for recreational activities? Basketball courts? Tennis? Baseball? Soccer? Any public swimming pools? The greater your variety of recreational activities, the greater risk your community has taken on–thus the greater the possibility of a public skatepark. One important detail is related to the overlap of public parks and public schools–many communities are saving space and money by merging the two needs–you may have to determine whether or not your local parks are controlled by, or used by, your local public schools.

Which park? Where would the skatepark you want to build be located? In Honolulu, Hawaii, a group of skaters took Polaroid pictures with the old technique of holding the day’s newspaper in the foreground and taking the pictures at noon (when sunlight casts distinctive shadows directly beneath objects) over a series of Saturdays and Sundays, to demonstrate that the city’s tennis courts were not being used. Within weeks the city experimented with temporary skateparks on those same tennis courts.

Does your community have existing parks or property that are under-utilized? How will you be able to document the lack of use? Personal testimony? Photographs? Videotape? How can you demonstrate that your city’s parks aren’t what others think they are?

The Fourth Step: Accountability

How many skateboarders are there in your community? Total–not just “rad” skaters, or sponsored skaters, and certainly not just those who are your customers, but every kid and non-kid with a board. How many skateboarders right now would be ready to skate that new park? Then, you can compare your community’s numbers with the national average. Here’s the formula, using the United States Chamber of Commerce’s numbers:

(Population) x 0.03 = Number of skateboarders.Ý

No one else is going to do this for you. The formula is good, because it may help you determine how many potential users there are in your community. City-government folks like this type of report, especially when you say phrases like, “Using the United States Chamber of Commerce formula, we have determined that in our community there are 1,388 skateboarders who will use this park when it’s completed.”

An informal petition is also an excellent way to document the number of potential skatepark users. Your customers are an excellent resource for this possibility. How many of your customers attend how many different schools? Stopping short of forging the signatures, wouldn’t it be possible to generate hundreds of signatures from skaters and non-skaters in your community? All it takes is a clipboard, a pen, and a statement at the top of lined pieces of paper that says, “The undersigned support the development of safe skateboarding parks in our community.” No phone numbers, no addresses. Just names. The more, the merrier.

Accountability continues when considering the non-skateboarder support from your community. Aren’t there businesses around y
ours whose owners hate skateboarders? Don’t they hate that skaters are around your store? Aren’t there property owners you know who just out and out hate that skateboarders wreck their property?

It’s the non-skateboarders, the “pillars” of your community, who might be the biggest supporters for a public skatepark. This is why you belong to your local Chamber of Commerce, or Lions Club, or Rotary Club. This is your source of untapped support, because the service-organization members probably include many of your local-government aficionados.

The Wal-Mart manager, the Shell gas-station manager, the bookstore owner–they all have stationery, and most of them will probably write a letter of support, especially if one of their regular customers (a skater’s mom or dad) makes the request. The goal here is to get their individual letter on their stationery. It doesn’t need to be too complicated. Give them a sample letter, with the name of the addressee and even suggest a message: “We feel that the development of a public skateboard park would provide the youngsters in our community a safe place to practice their sport.” The more the merrier. One suggestion, tell them you’ll pick up the letter the next day. Don’t rely upon them to mail it directly, tell them you’re presenting their letter with a group of other letters.

Which brings to mind the technique of predetermination. That is, tell your potential letter writers you already have letters from (insert name of whomever they might recognize but might not know well enough to confirm). More sources include teachers, principals, youth organizers, church leaders, et cetera. How about your local radio station, and what about the local newspaper? A letter to the editor or a suggestion to a talk-show host might help to create a community-wide letter-writing campaign.

The Fifth Step: Presenting The Possibility

Now that you know who to present the information to, you’ve already defined the possibilities, and you’ve collected written support, then what? Parks and recreation commissioners, boards, and committees all have regularly scheduled meetings–request to be added to the agenda. Request a meeting. Do lunch. Introduce the idea, the concept, to the appropriate people. During that meeting, after The Leader (your leader) has brought out the petitions and the letters of support, that’s when The Leader can say, “We’ve also been in touch with this national organization that’s helping cities around the country develop their skateparks, and they’ll be sending you information directly. Maybe you’ve already received it?”

The Sixth Step: Contacting IASC

If you’ve accomplished the first five steps, this step may be unnecessary. However, it sometimes helps local community officials to realize they’re not on their own–that other cities are resolving the “skateboarding problem” by developing and constructing public skateparks. This is not an isolated issue, it’s a nationwide phenomenon–public skateparks are being built throughout the United States while in other communities skateboarding is being banned from public and private property.

IASC can provide the perspective of what’s happening throughout the country. IASC is a certifiable “expert.” IASC can document for your community’s government that what your proposing is, in fact, happening elsewhere. We can substantiate your claims.

When contacting IASC we need the names and titles of your local governmental officials, their addresses, their phone numbers, their fax numbers. When you alert us that your Leader will be meeting with your parks-and-recreation people on such and such a day at such and such a time, we can provide validation your officials may require.

We are your backup. If you do your part, we’ll do ours. Complete the first steps, provide us the appropriate information, and we’ll help make your public skatepark a reality. It is difficult to imagine, but that’s what change is all about. Change is the constant, and we’re ready to help you bring about the changes in your community that will have a long-term affect upon the skateboarders in your town. Your customers are ready for the millennium. Are you?

Ý Note: This formula is derived from the following numbers. American Sports Data estimates 9,100,000 skateboarders in the United States. Population estimates reach 270,000,000, therefore we have three percent of the population in our ranks. This formula does not allow for population densities throwing off the average, e.g., university populations generate higher numbers of young people who may in fact skateboard, but the general rule is the general formula.