Skatepark of Baltimore opens in Hampden after decade of planning
By By Colin Campbell and The Baltimore Sun
May 03, 2014 | 7:28 PM
Growing up, Stephanie Murdock would spend hours driving to and from skate parks in Virginia to skateboard.
When she graduated from Towson University in 2004 with a major in politics, Murdock decided she wanted to build a state-of-the-art facility in North Baltimore.
She took out an ad in the City Paper, listing her personal cellphone number, and began receiving tons of calls from interested people. A group of them met soon after to discuss the idea. It took a decade, but on Saturday they celebrated the long-awaited grand opening of the Skatepark of Baltimore in Roosevelt Park.
As a local rock band tuned their guitars and a skateboarders whizzed around a full-sized skate bowl, Murdock sipped a beer and recalled when the park was only an idea.
"We wanted a public, concrete, destination skate park," she said. "Free and unique — that was the vision."
Getting it built on what had been a basketball court involved creating a nonprofit, writing grant proposals and convincing business owners and government officials that it was a worthy cause. It would give kids an alternative to skating in the street and grinding on the city's steps and benches, she said.
The group solicited donations for years to pull together the $750,000 to $1 million they needed to build the park.
The city agreed to help pay for it, and a state appropriations committee approved $200,000 for the project. The park got a $30,000 grant from the Abell Foundation and another for $25,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
Hawk, a skateboarding legend, called Murdock when his foundation approved the grant.
"He left a message," she said. "I still go home and listen to it when I'm having a bad day."
Murdock remembered "shaking people down for their lunch money," including her own family, who pitched in thousands of dollars to see her dream become a reality.
"I told them if I ever get married they won't pay for it," she said.
State Del. Barbara A. Robinson, a Democrat who represents Hampden, said she was astounded by the demand for a skate park in her district.
"It was just a hole, and they were out here shoveling dirt," she said. "When Stephanie started talking about what the kids needed — and I saw them skating around the symphony center; they were so talented — to bring that to Hampden, it's awesome."
"I don't know what I expected, but I am so proud to leave this for the community, because this is something that will be here after I'm gone," she added.
Robinson said she planned to take pictures of the event back to the other members of the Appropriations Committee as evidence that the park deserves further funding.
David Anderson, a middle school art teacher at Gilman School, said he hoped to bring his students out to the park. He had previously driven groups to Arlington, Va., to skate, but with one right off of Falls Road, "parents can just drop them off."
"I had to wait until my 40s to have a skate park right around the corner," he said, standing on the edge of the bowl with his board in hand. "There are some really talented skaters in Maryland. It's a shame it hasn't happened sooner."
Anderson acknowledged that the sport is dangerous — he's had two back surgeries and a knee operation in his 30 years of skating — but he pointed to the skaters cheering one another on and said he couldn't give it up.
Murdock said she stopped by nearly every day to check on the construction, which ended in February. She recruited local artists to paint murals on the walls of the park, which she dubbed as "preventative maintenance" against graffiti vandals.
Skatepark of Baltimore is the city's second skate park, after the one in Southwest Baltimore's Carroll Park.
The Hampden neighborhood has embraced the Roosevelt Park facility, said Jim Fendryk, the city parks department's construction projects supervisor.
"It's a good job for the people, and it came from the people," he said, gesturing to Murdock. "It's got a lot of positive energy."
Ronnie O'Neal, a 19-year-old professional skater from Virginia Beach who's been on a board since he was 4, drew applause from his fellow skaters as he landed Backside Crailslides and Frontside Airs in the pool.