The 23rd Annual Tampa Pro Begins Friday, March 3

The 23rd Annual Tampa Pro Begins Friday, March 3

TAMPA, FL - Big things are happening at the Skatepark of Tampa, too — or, as it’s commonly called, SPoT. From all-ages competitions to high-level amateur (Tampa Am) and pro (Tampa Pro) events, something always seems to be going on at this privately owned 25-year-old park.Additionally, SPoT staff members host six skating contests at sites throughout the world, with the winners receiving automatic bids to the Tampa Am. SPoT also runs a retail skate shop that helps raise the facility’s profile.

“Retail helps in the day-to-day [operations],” says Jeni Armstrong, who oversees skatepark operations. “The events draw people to the park to help the retail, so they go hand in hand. Our online store really carries the company more than the brick-and-mortar store.”

As with most skateparks, the local skating community plays an integral role in helping the facility maintain its reputation. “Everyone is always welcome but also protected,” Armstrong says. “They watch out for each other and push each other to be better — not just as a skater but as a person. For example, we had had a pile of local skaters show up to Thanksgiving dinner, because they didn’t have any other place to go. It’s not just a skatepark or retail shop, it’s a safe space.”

That “safe space” component of skateparks is what has helped make Long Beach, California, what Mike Donelon calls “one of the most skateboard-friendly cities in the United States.”

Donelon is a former city council member who since 2000 has helped establish small 3,000-square-foot skateparks in neighborhoods all over Long Beach to lower crime rates and build self-esteem in at-risk kids. He founded the Action Sports Kids Foundation to raise money to build these parks, and a ninth skatepark is expected to open in early 2017.

Bixby Park, among the most iconic in the United States with its simple design featuring no ramps, stairs or rails, attracts skaters from all over the world, and four “Am/Jam” competitions named after local skaters who died — two from gunfire and two from skateboarding accidents on the street ­— draw hundreds of kids; that number is increasing.

“As we’ve grown, our reputation has grown, and there are more kids coming to our events,” Donelon says, adding that the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau has been instrumental in helping the parks secure more events and put Long Beach on the map as a national action sports city.

Local skaters also participate in volunteer cleanup efforts, demos and lessons — activities that ultimately improve the quality of life in Long Beach. “We showed the city that these are good kids who want to be involved in their community and make a difference,” Donelon adds.

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