INDIANAPOLIS — Willard Park Skatepark is now open, located just one mile east of downtown Indianapolis on Washington Street.
The Willard Park Skatepark is the city's "first proper" skate park in the 465-loop, according to Indy Skatepark Advocates.
It's been over 20 years since the city last built an outdoor skate park. The Major Taylor Skatepark, located at 3649 Cold Spring Rd., near Marian University, was built in 1999.
Tim Devlin, a community organizer with Indy Skatepark Advocates, says it wasn't necessarily built with skaters in mind. One reason is that skaters cannot safely skate to the skate park.
"It is out there. I mean, it's scary to ride a bicycle to it if you're in downtown," Devlin told WRTV.
The Major Taylor Skatepark is nearly six miles away from downtown, where people are most often on their skateboards and rollerblades because it's centralized and, of course, there is plenty of concrete.
Devlin said getting a skate park so close to downtown is "not normal" for most cities.
"It's kind of unprecedented that we're getting a skate park within a mile distance (of downtown)," Devlin said.
Indy Skatepark Advocates would know: They've been working on getting a new skate park built in the heart of the city for the last 6 years.
"I sat down with the old park's director, Linda Broadfoot, and she said, 'Let's make this happen,' but then it was like roadblock after roadblock and pitch after pitch," Devlin explained.
The death of 20-year-old Ethan Williams in 2020 brought the Indianapolis skating community together to push the skate park process at Willard Park. Indy Skatepark Advocates approached Ethan's father, Jason Williams, about wanting to build the park in Ethan's honor.
Jason Williams wrote about his son, Ethan, on the Indy Skatepark Advocates website in 2021.
"Ethan lived a big life, loved skating, reading thick books and strong coffee. But more than that Ethan loved cities, their people and their stories. He also intuitively understood that places that fostered community were key in helping people better understand and relate to one another, and felt that skateparks did this exceedingly well, especially among young people, particularly the disenfranchised and/or those with limited resources."
Although the skate park will not be named after Ethan, Devlin says he will always be remembered by the community in recognition of Willard Park Skatepark. Ethan's passion for the centrality of access to public transportation, green space, and skate parks inspired the skating community.
"That energy is going to be forever encapsulated into the skate park because that's what made it happen."
Skate park made by skaters for skaters
Willard Park Skatepark is more than just having a centralized skate park, Indy Skatepark Advocates say.
"One of the reasons we believe an advocacy group is so important in the city is to give those skateboarders a voice and to let them [the city] know that we do care about who built the skate park and we do care about the design of it," Devlin said.
Bloomington-based "Hunger Skateparks" is building the skate park at Willard Park. Hunger is a skateboarder-owned and operated design and construction company that's built countless skate parks in 10 states.
"Almost everyone that's working right now is a skateboarder," Devlin said during his interview with WRTV at Willard Park.
Ahead of the building phase, Hunger held at least three meetings at the park to hear from community members. They conducted Instagram polls to see what local skaters wanted. They provided a preliminary design that Indy Skatepark Advocates was able to present to the public to get their feedback.
"That was what we wanted," Devlin started.
"Because they are skateboarders, they almost advocated more than we did for the actual park. The owners are at more meetings with the city, they're talking about how can we maximize every dollar that goes into this?" He explained of how much Hunger has put into the skate park. "How can we...pay homage to the history of the neighborhood, but also just make sure that this park is 100% what our community wants?"
Devlin says the more accessible facilities we see in Indianapolis like Willard Park Skatepark the more kids will get outside and be active. He says sports like skateboarding and BMX teaches hard work and perseverance.
"Skateboarding it's such an incredible, incredible thing," Devlin said. "We just see such an amazing community forum. We see kids growing up learning a skill. And in today's day and age, with instant gratification, there's nothing that teaches hard work and perseverance than taking the time to learn how to land a trick and at a place like this."
Devlin and Indy Skatepark Advocates hope the Willard Park Skatepark fosters a sense of unity for skaters of the present and future.
"I've seen generations come through Major Taylor. I've known kids who've had their parents drop them off when they were 10 years old, and now they're adults. And it's just cool to see that," Devlin said. "So, we really want to see that community build. And kind of foster a proactive community in the future of people that will go outside of the skate park and advocate for other things in their city."
Indy Skatepark Advocates had a grand opening event on June 5 to welcome the public to the park officially.
The organization says it is going to keep pushing for a couple more skate parks in Indianapolis. You can learn more about the advocacy group's efforts at indyskateparks.org.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.