Lady Bay skatepark is our local park, originally built in 1999, it has been through a number of iterations over the years, some good, some bad. This article is an indepth look at the parks history from the early days, all the way through to the recently finished concrete installation aptly marking the parks 20th year serving the local community.
Drone photo: Matty Hannah
Lady Bay Skatepark V1
Lady Bay skate park has been located on the south side of the river Trent in Nottingham since 1999 and is a very special place for me. In fact without it, I don’t think Supereight would exist. It’s where Sam and I have skated together for the past 20 years. It’s where we met Joey and Dave, 2 of our employees. It’s where I met my wife and some of my best, life long friends.
A young Joey Shepherd, Original Ramp – Photo: Sheldon Stones
Lady Bay Skatepark V2
The park has been through several iterations, starting as a perfect 24ft wide mini ramp, 4ft high with 5ft extensions. Later, the tarmac surrounding the ramp was extended and a basic street course was installed, with a driveway, quarters and a flat bank. We added some DIY bits including a block we called ‘the chimney’ because of its red brick construction and a manual pad we made out of paving slabs we had ‘ acquired’. The park was basic but everyone loved it as a mellow, easy place to skate. Joey and I especially worked closely with the council to make sure the ramps were looked after. Life was good and the sheninigans were many.
Photo: Joey Shepherd
Lady Bay Skatepark V3
Eventually though, life pulls in different directions – Joey went to Uni in Leeds and I was all over the country working. During this period a park builder got involved with the local council that at best was learning as they went, at worst were producing low quality and ill-conceived parks. They demolished our much-loved ramps and replaced it with a half-bowl and some of the most bizarre ‘ramps’ we had ever seen, including a lumpy inverted taco that looked like a giant grey pasty.
We made the best of the new park and whilst the wood was new, things were……ok. However, the untreated wood soon turned to mush and a terrible patchwork of ad-hoc repairs were carried out by the council which were well meaning but ultimately made the park worse and worse. People stopped using the park and it soon got trashed by local scumbags. Eventually someone set fire to the ramp and the park was condemned. Bad times….but also opportunity to change things up!
Rob Nelson, Frontside Flip – Photo: Tom Illsley
How Not To Repair A Skatepark 101!
Time To Call Rushcliffe Council
By now Supereight was up and running and Joey was back from Leeds, working with us. We decided it was time to get Lady Bay back to it’s former glory, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations coming into skateboarding.
Time to call the council. I was dreading this, as from experience councils can be slow and ponderous. Not only that, during the dark ages of the derelict Lady Bay Version 3, my previous contact at the council had been less than helpful, clearly a fan of prevarication and making do.
I needn’t of worried though, the council had put money aside for Lady Bay V4 and were super keen to do it right this time. After all, a good park means plenty of users and something that will last for years to come.
The guys at the council were unbelievably helpful and forward thinking. Other than insisting on concrete this time around, they were happy for us to take the lead on what the park should look like and who should build it. Stoked!
Forming A Committee & Design Consultation
We put together a tight steering committee made up of Joey, Sam and myself from Supereight and Chris from Skate Nottingham. Chris’ insights into what councils need to get out of delivering skateparks and the positive outcomes from it are indispensable when going through a process like this. I’d highly recommend getting in touch with him through Skate Nottingham if you are struggling to get your council onside.
Keeping in mind what made Lady Bay so much fun in the first place, we put together a brief to go out to park designers tendering for the job. We wanted the park to have space and not feel cluttered, offering classic obstacles – avoiding trendy DIYesque design or things that would be ‘of a moment’. We felt classic obstacles would stand the test of time. Thus a design with a central pyramid (a la Huntingdon Beach), manual pad, ledges, a super wide flat bank and a bowl set at the end of the park won through. The bowl is actually a homage to the O.G ramp with the original height and transition curve measurements worked into the dimensions.
Three companies put designs forward. By far the most compelling and the guys who got what we wanted most, were the crew at Maverick Skateparks. I’d met Russ and the guys before, when they built the awesome Clifton park and spent the previous 2 summers skating their new park in Melton. Their concrete work and designs history spoke for itself and they became the obvious choice for the job.
The council and environment agency then set various parameters such as flood plain volumes, material use and drainage for the design to adhere to. After addressing these issues and working with us on the design, Maverick came up with a design we were ready to present to the local skate community.
Word was put out on the Skate Nottingham, Supereight and Council FB pages and a meeting at the local pub was arranged for the guys to present their design and listen to any other ideas anyone might have. A couple of tweaks later and we had the final design and a stoked community.
Maverick arrived onsite in what turned out to be a very dry February, meaning progress was fast. Really fast. The Maverick boys worked like crazy and our weekly site visits saw swift progress to say the least. Even at this point Maverick accommodated our somewhat specific needs. For instance, Sam and I were worried the flat bank might be a little mellow. A long conversation with Russ ensued regarding the merits of a 30 degree flat bank over a 27 degree one. Sounds pedantic but these things make a huge difference in the long run. We went for 30 degrees in the end by the way….
Ready To Skate!
By late March the park was finished and we were invited for an early sesh. Honestly, we couldn’t believe our luck. An amazing free to use park, built to our specifications, located half a mile from our office at Supereight.
I know the guys at Rushcliffe council who delivered this project are not about being in the spotlight but I have to say Derek and Craig were amazing to work with and trusted our advice and requests, giving the local community the best park for miles and miles. Massive thanks to both of you and everyone else who worked on the council side.
Joey Shepherd, Frontside Tail Slide – Photo: Joe Walchester
Eduardo Martins Dias, Backside 180 Fakie 5.0 – Photo: Joe Walchester
Rob Nelson, Stalefish – Photo: Joe Walchester
Eduardo Martins Dias, Hardflip – Photo: Joe Walchester
Nick Warman, Pivot Fakie – Photo: Joe Walchester
Fin Shaw, Stalefish – Photo: Joe Walchester
Alex Decuna, Kickflip Backside Tailslide – Photo: Joe Walchester
So You Want A Skatepark?
If you are looking to get a park in your area and if you are looking for any advice, I’d say this:
- Get in touch with your council and ask what you can do to push a park up their agenda.
- Talk to organisations like Skate Nottingham who can advise on funding. There is loads out there – lottery, Sport England, corporate entities, etc and it is all about knowing who to ask and how to ask them.
- Working with councils can be slow. There are a lot of processes going on in the background and things like insurances, planning permissions, funding, environmental issues etc take a while to get signed off. Remain positive and avoid moaning. A constructive approach will always get you where you need to be quicker. We could have spent hours moaning about the previous park but that would have wasted the councilors time and put a negative vibe on the meetings. Stay positive!
- When funding is in place and it is time to get building, select your provider carefully. This park has got to last a long time and getting a cheaper local builder in to do it is only going to result in bad times.
- Be realistic with your budget. Nobody is getting a mega park with £200k but spent wisely, on the right obstacles you can still get an awesome, fun park.
- Get a sign made with safety advice. Also include what should and should not be happening on the park. We had to add ‘no balance bikes’ to stop parents dumping their toddlers in harm’s way and banned personal trainers from teaching excise classes on the park. All parks and demographics are different but I guarantee you will get people doing weird stuff on your fresh new park. Unicycles, pogo sticks, remote controlled cars and dogs are all regular unwelcome visitors to our park. People will do dumb stuff and won’t read the sign but….at least you can refer them to it when explaining why they cant have a BBQ whilst juggling flaming hamsters, balancing on unicycles in the middle of the park.