MANCHESTER — Christmas decorations are out, the holiday tree at Factory Point Town Green is aglow, and shoppers are thronging the streets of Manchester Center. Yes, it seems like an odd time to write a story about skateboarding.
But a visit last week to Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, where the expansion of the Manchester Skatepark is nearing the finish line, shows what the buzz is all about. Designs that once only existed on blueprints and renderings are now as real as solid concrete, and supporters are thrilled that the expansion, about doubling the park’s size, is finally happening.
Patti Eisenhauer and Bill Strecker, both members of the Manchester Skatepark Committee, said there’s excitement in the skating and riding communities about what’s being built, and how it will improve the park and draw more skaters to town.
“I can’t speak to deadlines,” Eisenhauer said. “But I was down there [Tuesday], and the progress looked fantastic to me.”
Eisenhauer said her son has made some social media posts of pictures from construction, and “the input and feedback has been really good from the skate community. They’re pretty stoked about it coming.”
“We’ve got kids saying things like, ‘This could be a premiere park in the state.’”
“All I see … is spaces for people,” Strecker said of how he sees the work.
“When we’re all skating in the first phase, the little guys that are learning are in the mix with some guys cruising around, heavier, older guys.” With the addition — a longer transition area connecting to a section with more challenging ramps — there will be room for younger and less-experienced skaters to learn the sport, while older, more experienced riders can do their thing, Strecker said.
When the park opened, “we knew that day that Phase 1 wasn’t going to cut it for interest and demand,” Eisenhauer said. “And [demand has] only grown since then. I think the park is going satisfy the skating and riding community here in town, and also attract a lot of visitors to Southern Vermont.”
What’s more, the new park will be one of the few skateboard facilities in the region large enough to hold accredited skateboarding contests, he added.
Strecker, whose Arson skateboard shop is “between locations,” said the expansion will increase the number of families coming to the community and spending money here.
“At the shop, I’d have families coming in saying, since the first phase was built, they’ve spent thousands of dollars” in Manchester, Strecker said.
Workers from Grindline Skateparks are racing the clock and the weather to finish pouring and finishing the concrete ramps and surfaces. The expansion will grow the park to about 16,000 square feet, with more challenging features and transitions between the new section and the 6,000-square-foot first phase, built in 2019.
The calendar matters, and not just because proponents would like to open in spring. Three significant sources of funding — a $250,000 pledge from an anonymous donor, a $25,000 pledge from the Right Track Foundation and up to $75,000 in ARPA funds from the town of Manchester — are all contingent on the project being completed in 2022.
The weather has largely cooperated, according to Tim Trudell, Seattle-based Grindline’s on-site foreman.
“We’re about 80 percent done with the shotcrete. There’ll be two more [concrete] pours,” Trudell said Wednesday.
“If it’s below 32 degrees, we really shouldn’t be pouring, unless we get some tents,” Trudell said. That said, “it looks like the weather’s going to be good all next week.”
High temperatures are expected to be in the 40s this week, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
Remaining on the punch list are pours of flat sections, “and then there’s some final cleanups, scraping, power washing [and] painting,” Trudell said. The landscaping can wait for spring.
A local skateboard enthusiast and frame-to-finish contractor, Joe Shum of South Londonderry, joined the crew as a volunteer and has been signed on as a paid worker.
“They took me in and made me part of the family,” Shum said.
“I turned 50 this year, and I’ve been skating for probably 40 years,” Shum said. “I came down here because I’m passionate about skating ... I met [Trudell], and it clicked. They needed help, and I was up for a challenge.”
“I built ramps as a kid ... this is next-level stuff here,” he added. “These guys are a fantastic crew. We click, and that’s a big thing in my trade.”