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Skateboarders to celebrate grand opening of Santa Rita park ‘bowls’ Saturday

$800,000 skate park opens Saturday

Kevin Kirkley (left), 20, and Rudy Carrera, 20, enjoy the new skate park at Santa Rita Park, 22nd Street and South Third Avenue.

Kevin Kirkley (left), 20, and Rudy Carrera, 20, enjoy the new skate park at Santa Rita Park, 22nd Street and South Third Avenue.

Skateboarding may not be Rudy Carrera’s life, but it’s darn close.

The 20-year-old works at a local skateboard shop, has taught skateboarding lessons and has been waiting nearly a decade for the new skate park to open near his home.

His wait is over.

The new skate park at Santa Rita Park, at East 22nd Street and South Third Avenue, is celebrating its official grand opening from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The event promises skateboard demonstrations, vendors, giveaways and music from four local bands: The Tics, Great American Tragedy, Subtle and Limbless Torso.

“I’ve been around skating my whole life,” said Carrera, who started skating when he was 11. “I hope I’m still doing it 10 years from now.”

Carrera has been using the skate park daily since it opened late last week. He was on hand Tuesday afternoon with a small group of skaters.

Not even the searing sun or 97-degree heat could stop them from taking advantage of the skate park’s 16,000 square feet of new concrete.

Three skating bowls are included in the $800,0000 park, as are a ramada, benches and nighttime lights.

Money for the park came from Ward 5, Ward 3, the Mayor’s Office Back to Basics, city of Tucson Community Development Block Grant, Pima County Neighborhood Reinvestment and Pima County bonds.

Skate parks run by Tucson Parks & Recreation are protected from liability by the state’s recreation immunity statute. It states that people use a facility at their risk and can make no claims as long as it is in good repair.

A dirt patch adjacent to the park waits for the second phase of the park, which will be built after more funds are secured.

“This park is good enough to bring a good name to Tucson,” said Kevin Kirkley, 20. He previously lamented Tucson’s poor reputation among skateboard aficionados.

But he’s already seen that changing.

“There were some people from Chicago here,” he said, “and Oregon.”

Kirkley added he doubted the people came thousands of miles for the sole purpose of visiting the new skate park, but they were impressed when they found it.

Carrera said skateboarding forges instant friendships: “Even if you go to a different country, a different state, there’s already a bond between you and other people there and you haven’t even spoken a word.”

Tucson city codes prohibit skateboarding on roadways, central business district areas, all public library property and in a downtown zone surrounding and including El Presidio Park.

The most common calls regarding skateboarders come from business owners, said Tucson police spokesman Officer Charles Rydzak.

Businesses’ large loading docks and curbs are especially alluring.

“The park gives (skateboarders) a place to go where they won’t be bothered and they won’t be asked to leave,” Rydzak said.

Skating options include four other area skate parks: Randolph Center at 200 S. Alvernon Way, Purple Heart at 10500 E. Rita Road, Ott Family YMCA at 401 S. Prudence Road and Continental Ranch in Marana.

Tuesday’s skaters agreed Santa Rita was superior because of its location, its facilities and its cost – it’s free.

Freedom is definitely key when it comes to skateboarding.

“You get to do whatever you want,” Carrera said. “If you think about it and put your mind to it, you can do it.”

Kirkley agreed: “It’s freedom of expression. You do what you want. You’re not held back by anything but yourself.”

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