Cushing Street Skatepark: Tucson’s Next First Indoor Skate Park

It was part of his daily ritual. Almost every morning in 2016, Caleb Gutierrez rode his bike under the I-10 Cushing Street underpass. While waiting for the red light to pass, he gazed out into a large open space. He had tons of potential, but back then it was just a big empty space.

“And one morning I just got the idea of, ‘Dude, this could be a new skate park in Tucson,’ said Gutierrez. ‘Everywhere else in the United States – in the world – there’s a skate park. shady. “

OK, maybe not everywhere, but Gutierrez is right: With scorching desert heat, including regular triple-digit temperatures, Tucson surprisingly has no indoor outdoor skate parks.

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He decided to bring this idea to a city council meeting, with his friend Kyle Araishi behind him.

“Here we are, two skaters stepping onto the podium and timing us for three minutes. … The seven board members loved it, ”said Gutierrez. “And all the crowd in this building … [was] applause. “

After this proposal, Gutierrez said he and Araishi would attend meetings at the office of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero twice a month to discuss and continue approvals for this project. Romero was a city councilor at the time.

However, the Cushing Street Skatepark was not without its challenges. At various times over the past few years, Gutierrez has said he experienced breaks in the project.

“I wasn’t giving up either, but slowly things were slowing down,” Gutierrez said. “It was a lot too, because you see people downtown or anywhere, and they always ask me, ‘When is the skate park built? What are you doing?'”

Formation and involvement of the Tucson Skate Park Alliance

Ask virtually anyone about the Cushing Street Skatepark Project, and the Tucson Skatepark Alliance is sure to step in.

The association was created in 2018 to defend the Cushing Street Skatepark, as well as to improve other skate spots in the city. On March 23, the alliance presented its case for the skate park at a city council meeting, detailing the potential economic benefits, reduced crime and creating a sense of belonging for the community.

A motion was passed unanimously approving the process of conducting a feasibility study, seeking the necessary approvals from the Arizona Department of Transportation, and initiating a community engagement process to receive feedback for the Cushing Street Skatepark. .

During the meeting, Romero showed his continued support for the project, commending the alliance for its continued perseverance over the years and described the Cushing Street Skatepark as an “innovative and wonderful use of dead space”.

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Where it is now

Now, five years later, the city of Tucson is currently in the process of hiring someone to do a feasibility study, which would determine the viability and likely cost of building the skate park.

Greg Jackson, deputy director of capital planning and development at Tucson Parks and Recreation, said the city has contacted a local landscape and architecture firm and is awaiting a proposal. Once a contract is in place, Jackson could take about “eight months of design time” before any construction can begin.

The cost of the project should be determined by the feasibility study, according to Jackson. He said the City of Tucson had approved funding only for feasibility and design and may allocate funds for construction at a later date. Gutierrez and other Tucson Skatepark Alliance affiliates also raised funds throughout the project.

Portraits under the bridge wall

In the meantime, to raise awareness of the project, photographer Shannon Smith decided to take portraits of various Tucson skateboarders to stick on the wall of the Cushing Street Skatepark bridge.

His idea was inspired by the Inside Out project, a global art project that aims to “make a statement by displaying large-scale black and white portraits in public places.”

Smith eventually submitted the idea to the platform, dubbed the “Cushing Street Skatepark Portrait Project”. The portraits were installed in August and featured 69 skateboarders of different ages, ethnicities and gender identities. Although initially targeting 300 portraits, the number has been reduced due to COVID-19 and social distancing limitations.

Portraits of a diverse group of skaters are plastered on the wall of the underpass under I-10 at Cushing Street.

Yasmynn “Ylo” Lopez is a member of “Badass Bitches Skate”, a group of about fifteen female skaters. She said her skateboard group had been approached by Smith to participate in the project. Raising awareness at the Cushing Street skatepark was important to her, as it would create a safe space for skaters without worrying about awkward weather conditions.

“If you think about it, skateboarding gives you a spot because you’re not really being judged,” Lopez said. “You do, and you make friends along the way because you all share this love and commonality of skateboarding… and then having that little bit of rain or just a hot day takes that away from you, it sucks,” I suppose . “

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Eric Barnes, also depicted in the portraits, is a skateboarder with over 30 years of experience. He said the indoor skate park is what Tucson’s environment needs.

“You go to the bridge, there is nothing there but rocks. Rocks and dirt, you know? So why not use this space for something really good for young people and the community – indeed, for everyone? Barnes said.

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