What does a community skatepark look like today?
Valparaiso, Indiana is reimagining what’s possible as it brings a modern skatepark experience to a new generation of skate enthusiasts — and a new community gathering place for residents and visitors to enjoy as the city of Valparaiso continues to thrive and expand.
Our team in Valparaiso has served as the engineering force supporting the project, and we’re excited to share that the site’s stormwater improvements kicked off earlier this spring.
This new skate park is such a fantastic development project to be a part of,” notes Matt Keiser, engineering project manager at Abonmarche. “The experience of moving through the process of designing the necessary stormwater improvements and site surveying – it’s extremely rewarding to know that our engineering work beneath this new park is what supports all of the action going on above ground.”
A formal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, April 18, kicked off new phases of the project and unveiled the new skatepark’s name – Flounder & Friends Skatepark.
“With purpose, this park will welcome people with adaptive needs, with purpose this park will welcome people of all ages and skill levels, and with purpose this park will welcome residents and friends of Valparaiso,” said Kevin Nuppnau, assistant director of Valpo Parks, during the ceremony. “We’re not just saying it, we are building it, and it starts today.”
Flounder Skatepark — A New Community Experience
As in every community redevelopment project, the City of Valparaiso hosted an in-depth community engagement effort to understand what people wanted from a new skatepark experience, what was important to them in the park’s features and location, and how the park might bring residents and visitors together in a way that most skateparks fail to do. To maintain the project’s vision and ensure the skatepark becomes a reality, a task force was established among the design and engineering teams, Valpo Parks, and local skate enthusiasts.
In contracting a designer for the new skatepark, the City of Valparaiso reached out to Valparaiso native and X Games Course Design Dug Ketterman, of DugOut Design Studio. Ketterman, a venerated skate park and course designer who has designed some of the world’s most beloved skate experiences, has a special connection to his hometown’s original skatepark.
As a 16-year-old in the mid-1990s, Dug and his friends came to the city of Valparaiso to find a way to design a place to skate. They helped the city design and construct the skatepark, piece by piece. The finished design was named Flounder Skatepark in honor of Dug’s friend Ray “Flounder” Wampler, who was killed in a car accident on his way to school one morning. The first Flounder Skatepark stood from 1998 until 2020, when it closed due to its level of disrepair and unsafe conditions.
Valparaiso reconnected with Ketterman after 20 years to lead the design of a new park in a better location. Once built, the new skatepark will again carry the Flounder name — and will inject the same passion that Valparaiso area skaters bring to their art.
Nestled in the Heart of Valparaiso
To host the site of its new skatepark experience, Valparaiso and its design partners conducted a thorough site review and analysis—eventually selecting a section of its existing Fairgrounds Park. This was a significant departure from the old skatepark location, which was nestled deep into a 122-acre hiking park on the city’s north side; in contrast, the new location, in the center of town and along one of the city’s main thorough-fares, was chosen for its visibility and walkability within the community.
As part of Fairgrounds Park, the new skatepark will be enveloped by a 3/4 mile walking track and situated adjacent to 4 softball fields, a playground, a community pavilion, and a Life Trails System, designed to help adults ages 50+ with functional fitness.
Valparaiso’s park and recreation options are ideal; with more than 700 acres of parkland spread across 17 parks, 27 athletic fields, 14 children’s playgrounds, and two golf courses, people in every corner of the city have a unique park experience to call their own.
With the old skatepark in disrepair, the decision to design a new one came with new opportunities: to create an accessible state-of-the-art skatepark and to shape a citywide gathering place for people from all walks of life.
A Modern Skate Experience for All
During an extensive community engagement effort, the design team identified the community’s top desires, then created a design that could be implemented in phases as funding becomes available.
The new skatepark will feature spaces for skateboards, bikes, scooters, and skates — with an emphasis on user-friendliness for many ages and abilities, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Future phases of the skatepark design will feature a dedicated beginners area along with adaptive features for athletes in wheelchairs.
Ketterman’s design inspiration is “centered around the Golden Spiral, providing a harmonious aesthetic while encouraging growth and inclusivity around the world. We have designed a park that not only meets the needs of the community, but also redefines what is possible…”.
Space to Gather
Flounder Skatepark’s holistic design will reach beyond the city of Valparaiso to become a regional hub for the skating community — creating space for people of many interests, ages, abilities and locations to gather — to have fun, to be active, to learn, and to share in both failure and success. Building a skatepark as a space that will nurture the community of Valparaiso will spread benefits to many other communities across northern Indiana and beyond.
Design: DugOut Design Studios
Site Engineering & Surveying: Abonmarche
Advocacy: Driftwood Collaborative
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