Free Skate Park In Mankato Could Become A Reality

Heather Voges discusses the possibility of a free skatepark in Mankato Thursday night at the 410 Project.

By Joe Steck – Mankato Times 

MANKATO, MINN. — Close to 50 people attended the first Skate Free Mankato meeting Thursday night at the 410 Project in Mankato. The group, led by Heather Voges, Christina Shortall and Casey Boone invited the community to share ideas on how to raise funds and secure a site for a free space for skaters, boarders and bike riders to enjoy in Mankato. 

Mankato currently has an indoor/outdoor skatepark, the YMCA Chesley Skate Park, but costs are prohibitive to many families according to most who attended the meeting. According to the YMCA website, the costs to skate are $5.00 for 2 hours or $10.00 for a one day pass for YMCA members and $8.00 for 2 hours or $15.00 for a one day pass for non-members.  

“The costs are just too high for many people in the community. If I want to go skating with my son it costs us $30.00. Yes, they (YMCA) do offer scholarships, but people who fall between the income-gap have a tough time coming up with the money,” said Voges “People want a free skate park. Other communities smaller then Mankato have them and there is no reason why we shouldn’t.” 

Voges says that smaller communities in the area have free facilities. The city of New Ulm (13,210 people) has a free skatepark and Owatonna (25,546 people) has a free skate/bike park 

“There are free skate parks in some of the surrounding communities which are smaller than Mankato and I feel it is time that Mankato has one also,” said Voges “The YMCA could not make it affordable for families to go and skate so I decided to have a meeting to see how we could develop a free skate park for everyone in the community to enjoy.” 

Voges travels to Golden Valley in the winter to skate for free. 

“I go to 3rd Lair in the Cities to skate for free. On Monday nights they have ladies night and over 30 on Thursday nights. In the summer I go to New Ulm and Owatonna where I can skate for free.” She said 

Christina Shortall started working on a free skate park eight years ago in North Mankato. 

“I started with the North Mankato Skate Park Association which was a group of Dakota Meadows 8th graders started as a class project,” she said “I had bought my son a skateboard at the skate shop. I started talking to Hanson who was working on the skatepark project and he said they needed help with fundraising, so I started to help them organize some fundraisers. Hanson moved away, and the idea sort of faded away.”  

Shortall says a free skatepark was a popular idea then, and it is a popular idea today. 

“It was a popular idea then, and now to see all of the adults here tonight that want to be involved … it is very exciting.” Shortall concluded 

Although Casey Boone doesn’t skateboard much anymore, he still would like to see a free skatepark. 

“We need a place where kids can skate for free – that’s a given. I use to skateboard and now that I am older I don’t as much but I still like to cruise around,” said Boone “The neighbors got me involved with this. They told me that they may want to put a skate park near Tourtellotte and I liked that idea. It is one block from my house and I love that.” 

Boone said that cost is the reason he does not go to the YMCA run Chesley Skate Park. 

“I would love to check out the new park but it costs too much. I use to skate at the old park for free before the Y took over and started to charge a fee.” 

Dain Fisher offered the parking lot outside of the Hubbard Building in Old Town as a possible location for the skatepark. His vision of added music, art, food trucks and skateboarding would be a unique addition to the area.

While volunteer sheets were passed around the room, people shared ideas where they would like to see a skatepark. Tourtellotte Park and the BMX Track were mentioned as possible locations. Local businessman Dain Fisher captured the room’s attention when he offered the parking lot of his property at 424 N. Riverfront Drive (also known at the Hubbard building) as a possible site. 

“One of the things that I see we are lacking is our activities. I am passionate about helping out where I can,” said Fisher “It would be a forgiving lease where we would continue to hold the property but there would be a land lease for a dollar a year.” 

Fisher thinks a skatepark would be a great addition to the area and would fit in nicely with the Minnesota State University Mankato Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

“I think the skatepark would be a great addition to the area. I would like to see more food trucks and incorporate more art in the area. Maybe we could have a stage built also for music,” said Fisher “Taking the skate park and partnering that with what seems to be a very good symbiotic relationship with a food truck lot and an art scene and music scene and putting all of those in one area – I think makes a lot of sense.” 

Adding a skatepark in Old Town is thinking outside of the box, but could be a nice addition to the area. 

“It is a culture we are trying to embrace. We don’t quit know how to get there yet and one of the things we are seeing vastly in Mankato is the idea of letting our creativity out,” said Fisher “There are a lot of details to work out and this is just the beginning.” 

Placing skateboard parks in other parts of Mankato was also discussed in the meeting as well as the possibility of trying to woo skateboarding events to town to help with the economy.  

Art, music, food and skate competition could be nice addition to the community. 

Although this was only the first meeting, it was a general consensus that this could soon become a reality. People will be researching park designs as well as communicating with city officials to figure out the next steps. 

The next meeting will be March 2nd. The location has yet to be determined.  

If you were unable to attend the meeting and want to be a part of the project there is a link to a Facebook group with other interested people.


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