Lady Bay Skatepark – 20 Years In The Making

Lady Bay skatepark, Nottingham 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.

Lady Bay Skatepark Drone Sunset

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.

The first iteration of the Lady Bay skatepark was a modest one. Originally built in April 1999, the skate park consisted of a mini-ramp on a small area of tarmac located on some unused land on The Hook conservation area, next to the children’s play park. By today’s standards, it wouldn’t even be considered a skatepark as such, but in the late 1990s it was one of very few installations in Nottingham, so quickly became popular.

The ramp itself was an unassuming 24ft wide mini-ramp, 4ft high with 5ft extensions on both sides built by Freestyle Ramps. It had a metal frame with wooden transitions that were near perfect in their geometry. This is actually quite unusual in skatepark builds as it is quite hard to build a ramp that has a good transition, even one that is being built from a template. Being such a nice ramp to ride added to the draw of the park over the next few years and not only did it become a mecca for Nottingham skateboarders, but was a great success story for Rushcliffe council in terms of a community project delivered on a small budget and a triumph for the local community who spent a great deal of time campaigning and raising money for the project.

Lady Bay Ramp V1

A young Joey Shepherd, Original Ramp – Photo: Sheldon Stones

Lady Bay Skatepark V2

In 2003, after more campaigning and fundraising by the local user group, a grant was given by the National Lottery that was matched by Rushcliffe council. This made it possible for the tarmac surrounding the ramp to be extended and a basic street course installed. This consisted of a driveway, quarter-pipes and a flat bank. Still basic by today’s skatepark design standards, but these additions we enthusiastically welcomed and the user base increased again. This not only included a new generation of kids from the local area but also from areas further afield, as word of the skatepark spread.

There was also a large area of free space which was added to over the next few years by the local user group who built some DIY obstacles. These included a block known as ‘the chimney’ because of its red brick construction and a manual pad that was made out of paving slabs. 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 over the next few years. Life was good and the shenanigans were many.

Lady Bay Skatepark V2

Photo: Joey Shepherd

Lady Bay Skatepark V3

Eventually, 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. In April 2013, Rushcliffe council demolished our much-loved ramps and replaced them 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. Sadly people gradually stopped using the park as other areas of the county were getting funding for local projects and users drifted away. It gradually deteriorated further and further and eventually, someone set fire to the ramp and the park was condemned. This was extremely sad for us as so much effort had been put in over the past 15 years to this point, but it was also an opportunity to change things up!

Rob Nelson FS Flip Lady Bay Skatepark V3

Rob Nelson, Frontside Flip – Photo: Tom Illsley

How Not To Repair A Skatepark 101!

I wanted to include the pictures below as they illustrate an important issue with skateboard maintenance by local councils in this country. When you have people managing the upkeep of a public space that do not understand its usage, it can actually cause all sorts of problems.

In this case, it is a good example of how repairs can actually make the facility more dangerous than the broken ramps were. It also serves as a reminder that there are no short cuts when it comes to allocating budgets for skatepark builds. As this case shows, if you try to cut corners on a build, it will usually end up costing more in the end, which in this instance resulted in the park closure due to safety concerns and ultimately wasting a large amount of public money.

Lady Bay Skatepark V3 Repairs
Lady Bay Skatepark V3 Repairs
Lady Bay Skatepark V3 Repairs

Time To Call Rushcliffe Council

Fast forward to the present day and now Supereight is up and running and Joey was back from Leeds, working with us. We had been talking for a while about the state of the Lady Bay site and decided it was time to get the skatepark back to its former glory, not only for ourselves but also for future generations in the local community.

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. As I soon found out, the council had already put money aside for Lady Bay V4 and were really keen to do it right this time. This was really refreshing and we discovered that the councillors charged with custody of the project understood that after all, a good park means plenty of users which is a huge benefit to a local community 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.

Forming A Committee & Design Consultation

We put together a small 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 were 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 first ramp on the site, with the original height and transition curve measurements worked into the design.

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 skatepark 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.

Lady Bay Skate Park Plans

Pre-Build Preparation

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. Generally, the response was overwhelmingly positive and a couple of tweaks later and we had the final design and a really excited local community.

The Build

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….

Below you can see a catalogue of photos that document the build over the 10 weeks it took to finish. As you might imagine, there are many more than we have space for in this article, but I have included as many as possible so as to illustrate how it all came together. It is fascinating to see how much work goes into building what seem like such simple structures to the untrained eye.

Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build
Lady Bay Skatepark V4 Build

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.

The skatepark was officially reopened to the public in May 2019 and is open for use 24/7 allowing for weather and daylight hours as it has no undercover area or floodlighting.

Lady Bay Skate Park - Joey Shepherd FS Tail Slide

Joey Shepherd, Frontside Tail Slide – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skate Park - Eduardo Martins Dias Backside 180 Fakie 5.0

Eduardo Martins Dias, Backside 180 Fakie 5.0 – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skatepark - Rob Nelson Stalefish

Rob Nelson, Stalefish – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skate Park - Eduardo Martins Dias Hardflip

Eduardo Martins Dias, Hardflip – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skate Park - Nick Warman Pivot Fakie

Nick Warman, Pivot Fakie – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skate Park - Fin Shaw Stalefish

Fin Shaw, Stalefish – Photo: Joe Walchester

Lady Bay Skate Park - Alex Decuna Kickflip Back Tail

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:

  1. Get in touch with your council and ask what you can do to push a park up their agenda.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Leave a Comment