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Salt Lake City gets head-start on Olympic skateboarding industry

Westminster College student Adam Redling skates a backyard halfpipe in Sugar House on August 26, 2018. This September, the Utah State Fairpark will host the Vans Park Series Men’s Pro Tour World Championship, putting Salt Lake City in the spotlight along with world-class cities such as Shanghai and Paris. (Photo courtesy Jake Phillips)

Salt Lake City further strengthens its connection to the Olympics by hosting a world championship skateboarding event and making plans to build an Olympic-caliber skateboard park.

The city is scheduled to host the country’s first ever Vans Park Series Men’s Pro Tour World Championships at the Utah State Fairpark Sept. 6-7, according to the 2019 schedule on the Vans Park Series’ website.  

Additionally, with skateboarding set to debut as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo games, Vans plans to contribute $200,000 towards the addition of a new “Olympic-caliber” skatepark for the World Championships, according to Rep. Michael McKell, R-Spanish Fork, who is pushing to make it all happen. McKell has also proposed that the Utah state legislature fund another $300,000 to complete the skatepark.

McKell said that Utah plans to receive over $200,000 dollars from ticket sales alone, which will almost entirely recoup the state’s investment, but a majority of the projected earnings will come from other sources.

According to the schedule, the Vans Park Series will have four qualifying stops before making its way to Utah. The first stop will be held in Shanghai, followed by São Paulo, Montréal and Paris.

“Because this is a world championship event, you’re spotlighting Salt Lake City across the world and comparing it to these world-class cities,” McKell said. “We think that’s about an $8 million bonus to the state of Utah, as far as earned media and marketing. We also think that you’ll see upwards of $4 million created as far as revenue spent and purchased in Salt Lake [City] during the event.”

Kai Aleksy, an undergraduate at the University of Utah, performs a skateboard trick in Salt Lake City on May 28, 2018. With skateboarding making its official Olympic debut in 2020, Utah legislatures are trying to approve funding to help fund the development of an Olympic-quality skatepark for the Vans Park Series Men’s Pro Tour World Championships being hosted at the Utah State Fairpark this September. (Photo courtesy Adam Redling)

With skateboarding soon to be an Olympic event, people are excited to see Salt Lake City get a head-start on the industry.

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” said Alex Mazzeo, a Westminster College alumnus. “People come to Utah for action sports, so it’s definitely putting it in the right place.”

McKell echoed these sentiments calling Utah “an Olympic community.”

“That’s something that we’re really proud of in Utah, and I think that Olympic spirit will thrive at this skatepark,” McKell said. “There’s a high likelihood that we’ll have some of our future U.S. Olympians training at this facility.”

Liam Conkling, an undergraduate at Westminster College, said he’s interested to see how the Olympics, as well as the upcoming event, will affect the way people view skateboarding.

“When I see action sports in the Olympics these days, I think of them as branches off of skateboarding,” Conkling said. “So, I think it’s pretty cool that skateboarding is finally becoming part of it. That way it would get people more hyped on skating and hopefully build a bigger community around the sport.”

Others agree that it will introduce more people to the sport, but said they believe it won’t have much of an impact on the existing community.

“It’s going to be good for exposing [skateboarding] to a broader audience and raising the legitimacy of it,” Mazzeo said. “But it’s only like a niche. There’s way more street skaters than there are [competitive skaters] in the world.”

There has been some opposition to the investment, like a recent opinion article from the Salt Lake Tribune, in which columnist Robert Gehrke added the skatepark to his list of Utah lawmaker’s “frivolous projects.”

But McKell said he remains confident about how beneficial hosting the World Championships and building an Olympic-caliber Skatepark will be for Utah.

“If there’s negativity out there, I’m not seeing it,” McKell said. “I think there has been overwhelming support and I was amazed by the response from legislature. Once they realize how big this event actually is, folks are going to be really, really excited to see it come to the state of Utah.”

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Josh Messier
Joshua Messier is finishing up his last year at Westminster College with a communication major and a minor in art. Originally from New Hampshire, Joshua moved to Salt Lake City for the best snow in the country. He's more than excited to graduate and see what will come next in life.

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