It’s going to be a bittersweet winter for Halifax skaters, bladers and bikers. Months ago, before things got so chilly, it wasn’t that hard for optimistic skatepark patrons to envision a shiny new park opening just in time to beat the first snowfall of the year—maybe even afford a chilly ride or two. Unfortunately, despite the push to break ground on a new skatepark before the end of 2005, it now appears that skatepark supporters will have to wait until next spring before seeing any construction on the Halifax Common.
That’s the bad news. The good news, according to Pro Skates co-owner Jon Swinamer, is that the new park is still coming, and progress has remained steady. This week, three local contractors will submit bids to the HRM, all vying for the opportunity to build the new skatepark. The decision was supposed to be made weeks ago, but was delayed after all parties realized it would be too difficult to meet a fall construction deadline.
“The most disappointing news is that they all said that they couldn’t do it this fall,” says Swinamer. “But, once we agreed that it wasn’t going to be possible, we all said, ‘Let’s give these more time to price it better.’ When you’re rushed, you put in more money. When you have more time to work things out, you can come up with a more accurate price.”
The bids are being officially submitted to the coordinator of capital projects for the HRM, Blair Blakeney. Blakeney has been working on the skatepark project for months, and will consult with members of the skate community before making decisions about awarding the contract.“Ultimately, this is a joint decision between myself and consultation with the skateboard coalition,” he says. “We’ve both got to sit down and make sure that this company can deliver.”
The three proposals are based on a design by BC company Spectrum, a company that specializes in skatepark design. Citing a conflict of interest, the HRM would not allow Spectrum to bid on the construction contract (it would be perceived as having an unfair advantage during the bidding process). However, a consultant from Spectrum will be on hand throughout the construction process to make sure that the new park is completely skater-friendly. Details like that are reassuring to skaters like Swinamer.
“The design and the specs from Spectrum are so tight, it can’t really be screwed up,” he says. “If the company—whichever company—goes by the book, then it’s going to be fine.”
Perhaps the biggest concern is that the bid proposals will come back too expensive. To date, the not-for-profit Halifax Skatepark Coalition has raised just over $420,000 to pay for the new park. Their ultimate goal is to raise $500,000. However, the total price tag for the project will not be clear until the winning bid is selected. Should the projected cost of construction turn out to be over $500,000, where is the rest of the money going to come from?
“It’s not going to be good if we open up those bid proposals and see that everyone—all three—have overbid,” says Blakeney. “Unfortunately, right now, there’s a lot of that happening. Pricing right now is way up there. There’s just so much construction work out there right now. It’s part of the reason we pushed back to spring. All the companies told us if we wanted to have this done by this fall, we’d be paying a major premium for it.”
Ultimately, such a problem would mean more fundraising or scaling back the park design. Although Swinamer hopes neither is necessary, fundraising might be the more bearable option. Pro Skates is still actively raising money; the shop is currently selling raffle tickets on a Gibson Les Paul guitar signed by skate stars like Rune Glifberg and Arto Sari. Swinamer also says two large corporations are working out details for a major donation that could bring the Skatepark Coalition fundraising total to roughly $460,000.
“Whatever happens with these proposals, the HRM has been pretty easy to work with, and I think Blair is totally on our side on this one,” says Swinamer. “We’re not going to let anything go wrong.”