YMCA skatepark renovated with variety in mind

YMCA skatepark renovated with variety in mind
A skateboarder vaults off a concrete ramp into the air. Most of the Magdalena Ecke YMCA’s skatepark was retooled to the benefit of pros and novices alike. Photos by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Skaters took turns swooping down a 9-foot quarterpipe. With the speed from the drop, some hopped onto a rail and slid across it. Others chose to launch off a ramp on the opposite end of the street course. A few of them caught air, grabbed their boards and landed cleanly. 

At the other end of the Magdalena Ecke YMCA’s skatepark, younger skaters gently cruised up and down small ramps in “mini-land” — a section with features roughly one-third the size of those in the street course.

The expanded mini-land and redesigned street course debuted with a small celebration June 18. And the range of obstacles is no coincidence.

The view of the new street course at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA from above.

The view of the new street course at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA from above.

Three years, ago the Encinitas YMCA held focus groups with parents, kids, staff and pros to gather what the community would like to get out of its skatepark. The most common answer: ramp and rail features that appeal to all levels.

“A lot of the time when beginning kids go out to skateparks, they feel intimidated,” said Joe Ciaglia, a well-known skatepark builder who headed up the update.

“Here at the YMCA, there’s an area for them to progress and not feel embarrassed as they’re learning,” said Ciaglia, who is also the CEO of California Skateparks. “And you want to challenge your more advanced skateboarders.”

For the more experienced skateboarders, the street course has boxes, ledges, rails and no shortage of big ramps.

“It’s so much fun,” said 17-year-old Austin Poynter, a professional skateboarder. “There are so many new obstacles to hit. Everything is perfect.”

There’s more than the street course for skaters to test their mettle. The park’s two bowls, other fixtures, were also renovated. And the park’s 13-foot halfpipe, another longtime staple, looms over the park.

Gerry Poynter, Austin’s dad, said the mix of top-notch features even prompted the family to move to the area from Orange County.

A YMCA instructor teaches kids how to roll back and forth in the middle of the halfpipe.

A YMCA instructor teaches kids how to roll back and forth in the middle of the halfpipe.

“He’s been skating since the age of 9,” Gerry said of his son. “A lot of people talked about the park in Orange County. We came here and he fell in love with it. As he got better, we decided this is the best place to be.

“Not only is it a family park, it’s a proven training ground because it has everything,” Gerry added. “He can work on every aspect of skateboarding in the same day all in one place.”

Gerry and his son also noted they appreciated the park’s shift to concrete.

The previous street course was made out of wood. With the Encinitas YMCA being so close to the ocean, moisture in the air took a toll on it, demanding constant and costly maintenance, explained Ron LeLakes, associate executive director of the YMCA.

There are still some wood features, but the street course and mini-land are primarily concrete.

“Concrete is just so much smoother to skate on and lasts longer,” LeLakes said.

He also noted the street course and mini-land were reconfigured to maximize views for spectators.

“Families can watch their kids skate,” LeLakes said.

On that note, the skatepark offers lessons for kids as young as 3 years old (those who are interested can sign up at the skatepark.)

Construction began five months ago, and the Encinitas YMCA raised more than $700,000 for the redesign. More than 40 kids helped with the effort by placing calls and knocking on doors.

“We’re really proud of them,” LeLakes said. “They were willing to take the time for something they believe in.”

Funding also came from private donations, contributions from the skateboarding industry and fundraising events like “Skate with a Pro Day.”

Home to pros like Shaun White and Tony Hawk, more than 19,000 people visit the skatepark every year.

 

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