Tony Hawk opens skatepark in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Christiana Smith loves to skateboard in the city, but it’s tough finding places to do so legally.

Professional skateboard legend Tony Hawk, center, signs an autograph for Rashad Wright, foreground-left, and his cousin, Daishon Nelson, right, both 11 and of Detroit, as Hawk stands with fellow pro-skater Bill Danforth, left.

“We usually just skate in the streets,” the 20-year-old Farmington Hills resident said. “Part of what we do is we have to go out and skate and film, and if we don’t have parks, we go to the streets.”

Smith and other skateboarders have more opportunity to skate in downtown Detroit with the opening this week of a temporary public skate park and art installation called Wayfinding.

The 4,600-square-foot skate park at 100 Monroe was designed by skateboarding icon Tony Hawk and artist Ryan McGinness. George Leichtweis of Modern Skate and Surf in Royal Oak built the park.

“I think it’s amazing,” Smith said. “It’s really awesome for Detroit so everyone can see our all-inclusive skate community and how that should reflect the real world. We’re a bunch of people coming from a bunch of different places, and we all accept each other. We do that through skateboarding.”

During a celebration for the skate park on Tuesday, Hawk said he’s in support of the skate scene in Detroit because the area needs it. He said he’s familiar with Detroit as he has family in the area.

“There’s a strong interest in skating,” Hawk said. “A lot of kids do it, but there’s relatively little support... This is a step in the right direction.”

The park has six skateable elements: a platform, mini ramp, snow plow, jersey barrier, pyramid and a manny ledge rail. There is also a viewing area for spectators.

The skate park officially opens to the public Wednesday and will stay open until January. That’s when construction begins on the Monroe Blocks development that will include office, residential and retail space. The skate park is designed to be moved to another location.

Bedrock and the Quicken Loans’ family of companies are backing the project.

Ella Hyatt, 10, of Sterling Heights, tries to grab her board in mid air.

The idea for the skateboard was born out of a conversation between the Library Street Collective and Cranbrook Art Museum about an exhibition the gallery was supporting involving McGinness, said Anthony Curis, partner at the Library Street Collective.

“Skate culture is something that really informed his studio practice,” he said. “Knowing that and, at the same time, knowing there’s been a growing need for skate parks in the city, we felt it was a perfect fit to combine the two as an awesome public space in downtown Detroit.”

Curis said McGinness directed the visual language of the park, while Hawk designed the functional aspects.

On Tuesday, Hawk tested out the park skating alongside others, including Smith.

“It was an honor,” she said. “He’s one of the people that inspired me to skate.”

Derrick Dykas of Community Push, a group working to bridge the gap between skateboarders and the community, said he’d like to see more permanent skate parks installed in Detroit. After Wayfinding’s stint on Monroe, he hopes it finds a permanent location.

“I hope it sees a neighborhood that needs it,” he said. “The biggest problem with skateboarding here is that kids don’t have access to it. I really hope that it pops up in a neighborhood that doesn’t see much recreation.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN