Sk8-Cary fans beg for ramp

aspecht@newsobserver.comMay 23, 2014 

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Jared Chiusano, leaps over a jump while rollerblading at SK8-Cary when it first opened. Supporters are asking town leaders to build a bigger ramp at the park.

SCOTT SHARPE — NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

— One boy offered to let the mayor use his skateboard, and a couple of moms offered to kick off fundraising efforts if it would help Cary pay for a vert ramp at Sk8-Cary.

About two dozen fans of the town-run skate park appeared before the Cary Town Council on Thursday during a public hearing on the town’s budget for next fiscal year, which starts in July.

It was the second time the group lobbied the town for a 13-foot vert ramp this year – the first was at a preliminary hearing in February.

Those efforts didn’t succeed in prompting Cary staff to include a ramp in the proposed $209 million budget, so the group returned to plead their case.

“We’re willing to fundraise to offset the cost of this ramp,” Kim Womack said.

“It’s not just a big toy,” she added. “It’s a very useful piece of equipment.”

Most speakers talked about the importance of the park to the community and how some of the skaters have excelled beyond Sk8-Cary’s offerings.

“The skate park is a great place to keep kids off the street, and the vert ramp is something they need to excel in their sport,” Beth Warner-Sullivan said.

But Craig Sullivan struck a different tone, saying he had become discouraged by the town’s lack of support.

“You’ve seen the numbers of people that are here in this audience. … And yet this is still not being recognized,” he said.

Sullivan acknowledged that Sk8-Cary operates at a deficit.

“You’re concerned about revenues at this park,” he said. “They’re not going to get better until you improve it.”

The town opened Sk8-Cary in 2002 off of NW Maynard Road. The 12,000-square-foot park has ramps, mini-ramps, rails and ledges – but nothing as big as the ramp supporters are asking for.

Council members said they’d like the town to build the ramp and spent an hour talking about it in a meeting together on Tuesday.

But Cary staff estimates the cost of buying the ramp and retrofitting the skate park to accommodate it would be about $475,000.

Council members don’t want Cary to pay that much, and they don’t think they’ll have to.

“Some of us question that number,” Councilman Don Frantz said after Thursday’s meeting.

“It seems high,” Councilwoman Lori Bush added.

The proposed budget for next year is 3.7 percent higher than this year’s budget, but Town Manager Ben Shivar has cautioned that Cary still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession.

Nonetheless, Bush, Frantz and Councilman Ed Yerha said they’re supportive of the idea and excited about the possibilities. So they directed Cary staff to investigate ways to do the project at a lower cost.

“We’re thinking if they spend more time and do a little more research they might be able to come up with something better,” Yerha said.

The council members don’t think a plan will come together by next month, when Cary is expected to vote on its budget. But they said they won’t necessarily wait until next budget season to fund the project.

“At the end of the day, it goes along with Cary’s niche of amateur sports,” Frantz said. “If you could get some big events – X Games, regionals or whatever – that would be huge for Cary.”

The town plans to hold another public hearing on the proposed budget during its meeting on June 12.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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