Three years from now, skateboarding will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo – a development that has proven to be a divisive issue among skateboarders, with some saying they don’t need the Olympics to legitimise skateboarding as a sport, while others – like pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk – call its inclusion an exciting opportunity for the skateboarding community.
Whatever the contentions of those involved in the debate may be, there’s no denying that skateboarding is enjoying rising mainstream popularity and acceptance, evident in not only the growing size of its global equipment market – expected to exceed $5bn by 2020, according to a study conducted by Technavio – but also the proliferation of skate parks around the world.
Australia alone has almost 1,500 skate parks, according to Melbourne-headquartered landscape architecture design and construction company, Convic, which points out that the number is significant considering that the country’s population does not even cross the 25 million mark.
While skateboarding is not typically associated with Middle-Eastern countries, Julius Turanyik, the company’s general manager, notes that interest in skate park projects is taking root in the Gulf region.
He tells Construction Week that ever since XDubai Skatepark – a project that Convic conceptualised and built – opened at Kite Beach in early 2016, the company has “seen an extraordinary amount of interest from developers and design offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and neighbouring countries” that are thinking of integrating skate parks into their projects.
Attributing the increase in interest to growing awareness among stakeholders that “youth spaces” like skate parks can be good investments, he explains that developers can make their projects more attractive to buyers by creating spaces targeted at the youth – an oft-ignored segment of the population.
He elaborates: “We often find that having a well-designed youth space in a development works as a magnet [for buyers]. It works as an investment because it can function as a community infrastructure and create more demand for the property. Developers can also get more value from the space by setting up restaurants or a food and beverage area around the skate park, for example.”
By highlighting the community aspect of the project, developers can ensure that its appeal extends to more than skateboarders, Turanyik emphasises, adding that the 3,200m2 XDubai facility effectively demonstrates how a skate park can be designed to serve the whole community.
He says: “The XDubai project is a good example because it has been integrated into the Kite Beach environment, to the food and beverage area, and the walkway, opening up the skate park even to passive users who just want to sit with their drinks and watch the kids enjoy the facility with their skateboards, bikes, inline skates, or scooters.
“[XDubai Skatepark] offers different sets of age-group choices when it comes to activities, and all in the same facility. Skateboarding is actually just the key element around which the project was designed, but the space can be utilised for other [purposes].”