Kyle Little nudged his skateboard up to the steep lip of the 5,000-square-foot bowl at the Skatepark of Baltimore, leaned forward and dropped in, picking up speed as his wheels rolled down the smooth, graffiti-covered concrete.
What was once a little-used basketball court in Hampden's Roosevelt Park has received a $675,000 renovation in recent years, transforming it into a skating paradise full of ramps, stairs, ledges, handrails and other features to entice skaters in Baltimore and from around the region.
"This place is the best," said Little, 25, of Canton. "I love it up here."
A grand opening is scheduled Saturday afternoon to celebrate the completion of the park, which took the nonprofit Skatepark of Baltimore Inc.more than a decade of planning and fundraising to build. The completed park has been open since December, but organizers wanted to hold the event in the spring to take advantage of warmer weather.
"Construction completed right before Christmas, not a great time of year to have a big outdoor event," said Stephanie Murdock, founder of Skatepark of Baltimore Inc.
The street-skating plaza of the park was paid for with $465,000 in private donations and city and state funding, she said. The adjacent bowl, which opened two years earlier, was funded by $210,000 from individual donors, the Tony Hawk Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Clayton Baker Trust and the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks.
The delay in holding the big promotional ceremony hasn't stopped skaters from discovering the park, Murdock said. News traveled quickly through word of mouth and social media. Skaters showed up — boards in hand — "as soon as the concrete dried," she said.
The free outdoor park has become one of the most heavily used city park facilities, attracting about 100 people a day from all over the city — and some from outside the state — Murdock said.
"When a new skatepark is built, the pictures show up online," Murdock said. "We have had people coming from all over the place."
Saturday's grand opening is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. at Roosevelt Park, 1201 West 36th St.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and other city and state officials are expected to attend the event, which will feature a DJ and live bands, as well as food for purchase from Sweet Side Cafe and Golden West Cafe. Waverly Brewing Co., which will also cater the event, brewed a new beer for the occasion: Frontside Ale.
Ryan Gladden, 25, of Northwest Baltimore, worked on a backboard-to-handrail grind over a set of steps at one corner of the park this week. Gladden, who was among those skating in the park on Christmas Day, said he expects a big crowd Saturday afternoon.
"There's going to be a lot of people coming through," he said.
Willy Stackus, who spent an afternoon this week at the skatepark, pointed out its unusual features, such as a shallow, crater-like dish in the middle, which has drawn different nicknames, including the "Hampden Hot Tub" and the "Baltimore Birdbath."
The city's willingness to allocate money for a skating attraction lends legitimacy to skateboarders, Stackus said. Parents who might have hesitated at letting their children skate in a worn-down basketball court have more confidence in an official city facility.
"It's more of a comfort factor," said Stackus, 28, of Remington. "People see it as something now. Before, it was just a lot with stuff in it."
Plus, the skaters unanimously agree, the smooth concrete is much more forgiving than asphalt when they fall. It also facilitates a much better ride, because the lower friction allows for a longer ride between pushes.
That combination makes the park great for both experienced skaters and kids who want to learn, said Brian Powderly, 20, of Old Goucher, who has been skateboarding for 14 years.
"A lot of kids in the neighborhood show up with scooters" and in-line skates, he said. "It's provided a place for younger kids. It's brought people from the whole ... area, because it's a really good, new park."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.