Crews racing weather to build U.P. skatepark

Garrett Neese
Daily Mining Gazette

Houghton — With the designers of the Houghton Skatepark on scene for construction, they hope to beat the weather.

“If the frosts start coming in early, then it’s a little bit of a problem. But we’re hoping to take actions to be able to get it done before the winter,” said George Zadrozny, heading the construction for Spohn Ranch Skateparks, which designed the park. “We wouldn’t have shown up if we didn’t think we could make it happen.”

They had completed about 15 percent of work by the first week of October, Zadrozny said. Construction was estimated at about five weeks from mid-September, when Houghton’s Department of Public Works began layout work on the site, the Daily Mining Gazette reported.

Spohn began its work on the site with specialty-edge metal.

“It’s got some really good shapes to it,” he said of the park. “There’s lots for the kids to do. It’s not just a basic park. It’s got some extra amenities.”

The construction is the culmination of a volunteer effort starting in mid-2015. The volunteer group led a fundraising effort of more than $208,000, enabling it to combine a planned two phases of construction into one.

“We’re not a wealthy community, but we’re certainly very close, very adaptable, very tight-knit,” said skate park organizer Alex Aho. “If we need a printer to print shirts or flyers for us, we know the printers personally. If we need musicians to play a show, we know the musicians personally. If we need to rent a backhoe, we know the people that have the backhoe.”

Spohn, which has four people on site, has also found local workers it plans to bring on for the project, Zadrozny said.

The park also uses rebar from the Ahmeek-based Neuvokas Corp., which provided it at a substantial discount.

“We’re using it specifically for this project, and trying to incorporate it into our other stuff,” Zadrozny said.

Zadrozny has taken advantage of the picturesque waterfront location, snapping pictures as the trees turn. The view of Ripley from across the canal will go up on his wall, he said.

“It’s a great location – gosh,” he said. “I’m up from southern California, and this place is another world.”

Houghton will have the second professional concrete skate park in the Upper Peninsula, following Marquette. Aho predicts the park drawing skateboarders from not just Houghton, but potentially as far away as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“When it happens, there’ll be a community that’s going to be built from this place, for all these underserved users having a place to go and a place to gather,” he said. “They’ll have a community and a social circle that will go beyond what they’re used to.”