New skate park months away

A place for skateboarders to play may be only three months away.

And they're waiting.

Michael "Frosty" Leichter said he has waited years for Columbus to build a skate park, something city leaders started talking about back when he was just a kid.

How long has that been?

"Since I was about 13, and now I'm 19, so about six years," Leichter said Tuesday as he and other skateboarders practiced their moves on a concrete slab off 13th Avenue.

He and his friends need a place where it's safe — not safe from injury, but safe from authority.

"People call the cops just because they hear a skateboard," Leichter said.

Trey Butler, 16, said one of the skateboarders occasionally drives by the South Commons site Columbus has chosen for a $700,000 skateboard park, just to see if anything's happening there.

Something's happening there now.

The city broke ground on the project Monday, and expects the work to be done in just 80-90 days, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin said Tuesday.

Columbus Council in June 2007 chose California Skateparks Inc. of Upland, Calif., to build the 33,000-square-foot facility that's to have concrete bowls and a plaza area for skateboarders to practice their tricks on. The city held public meetings to find out what the skateboarders wanted in the park.

On Tuesday, councilors agreed to let the city's Parks and Recreation Department apply to the Tony Hawk Foundation for a $25,000 grant to help pay for bleachers, lighting and a shelter for the skate park. The city would not have to provide any funds to match the grant.

The city is paying for the park with money from a bond issue.

The park is being named the "The Jonathan Hatcher Skateboard Park" in memory of a 19-year-old Columbus State University freshman who died Nov. 5, 2005. As president of the Columbus Youth Advisory Council, Hatcher in high school pushed to get the skate park built.

The park is being constructed near Golden Park, on a site formerly occupied by what once was known as the city's Confederate Naval Museum.

Until the work is done, skateboarders like Matt Calhoun, 18, and Alex Johnson, 20, will have to use the concrete slab off 13th Avenue — or find another place where they can practice without having the police called on them.