City & Politics, History, Planning

An abrupt end to Canada’s oldest indoor skate park

 The only indoor skateboard park in Regina will cease to spin in the near future.

The Heritage Building, located on the exhibition grounds of Evraz Place, is set to be demolished to make way for the new football stadium. The Heritage Building is Canada’s oldest indoor skate park and has been a fixture in the city since 1997.

It has provided a place for skateboarders of all skill levels, ages and socio-economic backgrounds to hang out and do an activity they enjoy. It has provided a supervised outlet for youth to do something constructive with their time, as opposed to potentially getting into trouble due to boredom and lack of activities in which to engage.

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Exhibition Park, and by extension Evraz Place, is located in North Central Regina, one of the lower socio-economic areas in the city. Being indoors, the Heritage Building has also given skateboarders a place to be during the seven months of winter this city normally experiences. As an aside, the first snows fell in Regina at the end of October 2012 and have only recently begun to melt. So yeah, that’s about seven long months of morale-destroying cold and darkness.

The only other skateboard park in Regina is out on roughly the southeast side of the city near the Saskatchewan Science Centre. That park is an all-concrete outdoor facility which is less than 10 years old. It provides a space for skaters to use during the snow-free months, but unless the Earth flips on its axis and the Northern Hemisphere becomes snow-free forever, this outdoor park is underutilized.

As of yet, no indoor replacement location has been found to host a new, similarly-sized skateboard park. That isn’t too surprising, considering Regina’s real estate market is quite challenging and finding a location that isn’t prohibitively expensive is a task itself.

With the Heritage Building, the city subsidized the cost of running that facility to the tune of $40,000 per year. That is quite reasonable for a building of medium size and used to host youth having fun and hanging out with one another.

What’s rather difficult to understand, however, is why the building is being closed and slated for demolition now, when construction on the new football stadium – I haven’t heard the term “multi-purpose facility” used as much recently – won’t begin for another year or so. Furthermore, the building is used in a limited capacity during the Buffalo Days Exhibition, er, “Queen City Ex”, for activities. Why tear it down now?

With the destruction of this building, it is quite obvious the stadium is going to have one massive footprint. This also means traffic coming in off Elphinstone Street will be impacted adversely, leading to the possible closure altogether of that point as an entrance into the exhibition grounds. That would leave at most four entrance points, leading to further bottlenecks getting onto the grounds. The entrance at Lewvan Drive is congested enough at the best of times; at the worst of times you don’t get too far getting in and move at a snail’s pace getting out.

As for the Heritage Building and the skaters, the city and/or the exhibition park board could at least have given a certain grace period, so that a new building could be found. We wouldn’t evict tenants from an apartment building without them at least finding another place to stay first, would we? (While that may sound like a rhetorical question, it has happened a couple of times in Regina.)

At the moment, nothing comes to my mind even as to where a new venue could be found. One of the benefits of the location of the Heritage Building was the fact it was within walking distance, and near major bus routes, for the youths. If the only locations that can be found are on the outskirts of the city, in the industrial area or not near a bus route, that new skateboard park facility would likely be underutilized. City planners should keep that in mind as they search for a new home for the boarders and bladers in Regina.

Jason Antonio is the Regina correspondent for Spectator Tribune.