Extreme Connexions, the UK’s only indoor concrete park

We have some really exciting news and information for you to take in today which may change the way indoor skateparks will be built in the future here in the UK. As you read this, the brand new Extreme Connexions Skatepark is under construction by the good guys at Freestyle Skateparks and looking at the new designed layout, it’s clear that they are working on a unique project so we decided to get an inside view on how this all came about.

The XC Skatepark is part of a development that has been backed by £5m of government money to build a safe environment for youth culture where kids will have access to: a teen health clinic, a recording studio for budding young musicians, an internet café, ‘chill out zone’ and counselling rooms under the same roof of the skatepark. Having access to a building that hosts all of these amazing opportunities under one roof is a dream for kids wanting to be part of their favourite cultures. However, for skateboarders in particular, the emergence of an indoor concrete park could set a precedent for more builds like this around the country and replicate the influx of activity that has been welcomed from the construction of many outdoor concrete plaza’s and bowls that have popped up throughout the UK over the last 8 years.

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The funding for the project has come from the government’s ‘Myplace’ programme which creates safe places for young people to go and administered by the Big Lottery fund. The Dacorum Sports Trust (DST) beat hundreds of other applicants from across the country to win the funding, and hopes that the facility will be a social centre for 11 to 19 year olds. Just one look at the plan suggests they will be correct in their assumptions that people should come far and wide to visit. The skatepark will be the only UK skate park to have a concrete bowl and pool inside so it will definitely attract the more mature skater keen to slash some pool coping too.

We spoke to Steve Crawford from Freestyle this week to get the lowdown on how this came to light who explained that the initial contact from the DST came as far back as June 2009 to tender for the construction of the project. The final design was signed off after 6 sessions discussing the plans with user groups over late night pizza sessions. These brainstorms were followed by further feedback meetings with DST and interested stakeholders. From talking about the set up with Steve, the the actual design process, although long, was relatively straight forward.

extremeconnexions-bowl1So, did the user group meetings throw up any difficult decisions from the BMX and skate community in terms of what was to be built?

“The skatepark is designed for BMX, Blading and Skateboarding. Inevitably there were some interesting discussions because what is important to one discipline might not sit high on the agenda for another! Freestyle always start with a concept design and it’s developed from there. At the beginning we had two design meetings with Youth Connexions which included the Young Persons steering group, a group of young people formed specifically for this project as part of the Myplace funding conditions. This enabled a wide scope of young people’s views to be considered and encompassed before we discussed things further with the professional riders and associations. For this project, there was a wealth of experience involved; the initial user group team included James Hitchcox (Zeal BMX Distribution), Nick Zorlac (Death Skateboards), Dan Cates (Death Skateboards) and Nick Powley (UKSA) which made the process of prioritising forms / obstacles a little easier. Combined with John Flood’s knowledge and skills, it actually ran pretty smoothly.”

What about the pool and bowl sizes though, we heard that these were being discussed quite heavily?

“Deciding on the depth of the pool was a challenge. Nick Fitt, a dedicated Middle Age Shredder, brought to the table the idea of creating a flowing, deep pool which differed from its original intent which was shallow, fun and whippy. It gave everyone something to think about and after much discussion, the final design was agreed. Skatepark design is often about compromise – creating something that appeals to the majority, but it’s a fine balancing act to ensure that compromise doesn’t affect the individuality of a park. It’s part of our job to make sure it all works.”

It must be refreshing to be building a concrete park indoors rather than having to fight the elements of the great British weather. How different is the process of the build to an outdoor park?

“The big plus is that you don’t have to worry about the great British weather although with the current heatwave, the irony of building indoors is not lost on us! There’s more going on than usual with other contractors putting up lights, roofing, electricians, timber ramps etc. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze! Engineering has also been a challenge. The interface between the building and skatepark is complex that wouldn’t be present in an outdoor facility. However, it’s not just us who are building this, another perspective can be provided by our engineer Walter Smyth of JMP consulting:”

The main challenge that Hemel offered from a typical external skatepark was the interface with the surrounding building envelope construction, both below and above ground. Ground conditions under the skatepark were poor and required improvement techniques to provide a suitable formation for the skatepark construction.

The building envelope was supported on piled foundations whereas the skatepark was ground bearing and this meant that careful detailing of the interface between the skatepark and the building foundations was required to avoid differential settlement taking place between the building and the skatepark. As the building was to be constructed in advance of the skatepark, careful liaison was required between the main contractor and the skatepark contractor to ensure that adequate construction access was maintained.”

Knowledge of just how much work goes into this process for a build of this stature is key, as most skaters are used to seeing designed plans on the web and steaming through the fence to skate what’s been built without even thinking how it became a reality. On this occasion, the doors will be shut tight until the opening session, so far we have been told that the park opening is scheduled for “sometime this summer” meaning we will have to wait and see if the user group’s design process actually works out on the build once it’s complete. Knowing that the concrete skate park construction companies who build parks do not have much history of building pools in the UK, our fingers are crossed that experts have been brought in to make this particular part of the project work to perfection. If it comes good then there will no doubt be daily queues from launch day.

Nick Zorlac can’t wait to get the park open. He lives 30 minutes from the site and knows how much this means to the local area. Talking to him this week about his take on this project from being involved with the initial planning stages he told us, “it was a long and thorough design process and if all goes to plan it’s gonna be pretty amazing. The street course looks killer, and it will be wood so can be changed whenever needed. The concrete vert bowl and pool should be insane and there’s lots of good stuff to skate in there, so it should be one of the best parks in the UK. To be able to skate an indoor pool in Hemel is a dream, I can’t wait to skate it!” We will bring you the news of that opening day once it is announced so keep an eye on our skate news section for daily updates.

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Extreme Connexions is located 24 miles outside of London will boast an 8ft pool with pool coping and a bowl that at its deepest is 9ft with steel coping. It will also have a creative street section and a decent sized mini ramp that you can now see from the new, tweaked designs. Word has it that user group members have asked for a replica of the old, but never forgotten Uxbridge mini. As someone who skated there a lot I can safely say that having that back in my life would be very welcome. Pool coping is also said to be arriving soon, shipped in from the US so start getting hyped on what looks likely to be a fantastic new park for the UK scene.

Well done to all involved in this mammoth operation. Spread the word on this news via your facebook page today and take in the photos and short video clip here that have been kindly sent down by Steve and John from this weekend’s visit.

Freestyle are very grateful for everybody’s input and interest in this project and would like to thank GB Building Solutions, the user group and Dacorum Sports Trust for awarding them the contract to build such a prestigious facility.

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Superdead’s Royal Shredding edit

superdeadskateboardsThe Superdead team hit the road to Scotland on Sunday May 1st for the War of the Thistles comp and filmed their trip for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy The Royal Shredding edit and get stoked on the fact that we will have a huge package of brand new Superdead decks, tees and wheels to give away at the end of this month. The new series is sick.

Nottingham scene welcome new skatepark at Clifton

The city of Nottingham will finally welcome a well deserved skatepark built by Maverick Industries this summer. The park designed by designed by Russ Holbert and Ian Jennings with consultation from Sidewalk’s mag designer Andy Horsley and Alex Halford is funded by Nottingham City Council at a total cost of around £300,000 and scheduled to open late July 2011.

Working from the site over the weekend Russ Holbert from Maverick told us that “the combi/vert bowl is going to be pretty massive. It should keep all the vert heads happy!”

Look out for the opening jam plans during the summer holidays and well done to all involved. Nottingham has always had an amazing skate scene so the addition of this will only make it even stronger.

Sean Malto opens his own skatepark

It’s a dream for pretty much every skater to own a skatepark, Girl Skateboards pro Sean Malto has done exactly that this month and has opened an 8,866 sq. ft. private training facility in Kansas.

The concrete, indoor park took about 3 weeks to build on site and should keep him busy in the long winter month’s that Kansas provides. Lucky git.

Inside the House of Vans skatepark in NYC

Planning to travel New York this year or thinking of going somewhere you can skate and take in the delights of a new City? The new House of Vans park in Brooklyn looks well worthy of a visit this year as it has something for everyone.

It opened last year with various special guests including Public Enemy, click here for the recap and watch this latest clip to get a feel for the place, looks much fun.

New Freestyle skatepark for Belfast open in April

Good news for skaters of Belfast just arrived here. Freestyle Skateparks have started work on a new concrete park which will be finished in late April 2011.

Locals can expect a tasty looking bowl, banks, ledges, hip, manny pad, bowled corner, driveway and more. Take a look at this design below and spread the word, the park is situated under the M3 flyover at Little Patrick Street and Corporation Street in Belfast.

Save BaySixty6 Campaign on BBC Radio

The on-going fight to keep Bay 66 under the Westway has hit the airwaves as Gaby Roslin and Paul Ross interviewed Chris Bailey of the Westway Development Trust on Monday’s Breakfast Show on BBC London.

The interview is primarily concerned with the location of the park, which as the BBC reporter points out, appears to have already been decided by the Westway Development Trust looks set to change as office space and gardening centres are likely to be more profitable.

It’s good to see that both Gaby and Paul challenge Chris’ statements with both the social and cultural significance of the park’s current location, backing this up with words from a 9 year old local skateboarder called Alex. As we know, the current location of Baysixty6 is where thousands of young people across the UK are accustomed to going to on a regular basis throughout the year. To change the location of one of country’s most important skateparks would have gross consequences to the scene no matter what.

It remains up to us skateboarders to let our voices and opinions be heard and convince those planning on relocating or closing the park that it is in the best interest of the city of London to let this cultural institution stay where it is.

To listen to the show, follow this link and skip ahead to the 2:16:20 mark to get straight into the discussion.

For those of you who have been directed here by the radio show, please join the Save BaySixty6 Facebook page where you will find continually updated information and please sign the petition here.

Watch: 4twentytwo at Revolution

4twentytwo have found shelter from the snow this month inside Revolution Skatepark and as a result knocked up this sweet little winter edit.

The edit features tasty bits and bobs from Michael Smith, Dan McCusker, Ben Wilks, James Brown, Max Christian, Adam Pau, Tim Prescott and Barnaby Fisher-Smith. Stay locked into the 4twentytwo blog for more.

IPath hit up LA parks

The IPath team took it to L.A. to shred some of the finest concrete on the west coast with the locals. Expect great things from the likes of Ryan Lay, Fred Gall, Steve Nesser, Ryan Reese, Jack Sabback, Jaws, Jon Goeman and more. Great things…

Watch the results of the Cali Shine Box Sessions and pretend for the next few minutes that snow isn’t real…

Wheelscape’s Petersfield park is now open!

Another one of Wheelscape’s super smooth creations is now ready to be shredded and shralped by all that are keen. Now, there’s no one better to introduce the new park to you than Wheelscape Architect Jeremy Donaldson; here’s what he had to say about the park via email.

Wheelscape’s skatepark in Petersfield is ready to roll.  Fresh super smooth concrete for street and bowl riders alike, featuring a super long linear street course and a double level bowl.  Micro & mini quarters, long ledges, flat bar, hubbas, 2-flat-2 set with rail, brick gap and a wave kicker keep you entertained along over 60m of real street terrain. The main bowl is Wheelscape’s most organic creation to date with rollers in the bowl, on the coping and the decks; the platforms turn up into quarters which link into the 8ft curved Burnside wall at one end of the bowl.  The 5-6ft mid section of the bowl has several hips and a roller connecting into the mellow 8 foot deep end. There is a timber deck along the length of the skatepark to give people space to chill and help stop the usual new-skatepark-mud-bath situation.

Sounds awesome right? Have a look at the video Wheelscape posted today to celebrate the opening below and check the map to start planning your trip.