Dogtown, Jr.: Construction begins on Harold E. LeMay Skate Park

It’s been 30 years since Dave Anderson skated the empty swimming pools of Kona Bowl in Escondido, California. Those were the days of long boards and giant wheels. The free-spirited life of Southern California skating ruled the day.

“I told my wife, ‘Now that I’m retired, I might grab the board again and come down here to skate,’” Anderson commented during yesterday’s ground breaking for the Harold E. LeMay Skate Park at Sprinker Recreation Center.

The ceremony marked the end of a four-year task of planning, soliciting input from the community, and aggressive fund-raising. When the park is completed next year, the 26,000 square foot facility will provide areas for all types of skate boarding, including free form and street skating and a separate area for beginners. Bleachers and areas with shade structures will be provided for viewing.

Many of the ceremony’s attendees pointed to the Tacoma-based non-profit Altrusa Club Foundation for spurring the park’s creation. Altrusa members hosted spaghetti dinners, peddled hot dogs at the annual LeMay Car Show, and sold bricks with personally engraved names and messages, which will be on display at the park. The group also worked with Pierce County Parks to apply for a state development grant from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The Altrusas were awarded the grant, which covered half of the project cost of $275,000, and they raised an additional $150,000. Pierce County Parks and Recreation contributed the land and $125,000.

“We worked so hard for this,” said Carmen Knudtson, a member of the Altrusa Club. She modestly added, “We may have initiated it, but the community made it happen.”

Indeed, community input was solicited throughout the project. At planning workshops, skateboard enthusiasts of all ages were invited to sketch their designs for the skate park they would like to see built.

“My husband was a good friend of Harry Sprinker,” said Nancy LeMay, an Altrusa Club member and wife of the late Harold E. LeMay, for whom the park is named. “It’s ironic that the Harold LeMay Skate Park will be part of the Harry Sprinker Recreation Center. I just think it’s a fantastic idea. In the past, kids have tried to skate in parking lots and on sidewalks. Now they will have a safe place where they are welcomed to skate.”

Though skate parks exist in the nearby neighborhoods of Lakewood, Sumner, and University Place, this park is the first of its kind in Tacoma. “We have skate parks in Pierce County,” said Pierce County Council Member Barbara Gelman, “but not in the South Sound area. That’s why this park is so important.”

Anderson, the Kona Bowl skater, was looking forward to the opening — even if it was 30 years ago. “I’ll probably come out on a Monday morning, when it isn’t so crowded, and ride the bowls,” he said.