Politics & Government

Fresno skate park envisioned

A replica of the once-legendary Vagabond skateboard pool could roll into Fresno.

The Fresno City Council agreed Tuesday to pay $275,000 for a 7,500-square-foot lot in an industrial area just south of downtown, and a developer is donating about 11,250 square feet of neighboring land. All the property is slated for a new skate park.

A Vagabond pool imitation would be a centerpiece for a complex that would include several empty skate pools and shaded bleachers.

Developer Steve Weil plans to build stores and restaurants next door.

Council Member Larry Westerlund cast the lone dissenting vote. He objects to the land purchase because the city's parks department doesn't have the money to pay for it.

The department will borrow money from the city's general fund with plans to repay it with developer fees earmarked for parks.

But the current housing slump could mean a decrease in fees the city collects from developers who build new neighborhoods, Westerlund said.

"I'm reluctant to spend money we don't actually have," he said.

Westerlund's council colleagues praised the skate-complex plan, saying new parks and other amenities are needed near downtown if the city hopes to attract residents and housing projects to the area.

"This is a special opportunity to get an incredible thing in downtown Fresno," Council Member Jerry Duncan said. "I can't wait for it to open."

The skate park still faces at least one significant obstacle. City parks officials must find about $550,000 to build the complex at Hamilton Avenue and Sarah Street.

Parks director Randall Cooper said it could be two years before the Vagabond Pool Skate Complex is finished.

Fresno adults will be charged about $2.50 to use the complex, and it will cost Fresno children about $1.50, Cooper said. Out-of-towners will be charged twice as much.

The entry fees will be used to maintain the skate park.

Skateboarders won't hesitate to pay the fees for a chance to ride the pools, said Jason Pistoresi, owner of the Sugarhill skateboard shop in north Fresno.

Pistoresi owned a skate park from 1996-98 and charged more than double the fees the city is proposing.

The original Vagabond pool drew skateboarders from across the country before it and a run-down motel were torn down in 2004 to make way for Vagabond Lofts, a 38-unit apartment complex on downtown's north end.

Skateboarders tried to stop demolition of the pool and said it was a perfect stage for tricks.

Before the Vagabond pool was destroyed, developer Weil paid to have a digital map taken of its dimensions and contours. He also bought about an acre of property with the hopes of remaking the pool as part of a skate park.

Weil and the parks department hope to incorporate some of the Vagabond's original coping -- the concrete lip of the pool -- in the new park.

The coping was prized by skateboarders for its smoothness, which made it easy to perform tricks.

Weil gave some of his vacant land to the city so it can build the skate complex and plans to use the rest of his property for a 14,000-square-foot commercial project that would include restaurants and stores.

His project also would include a parking lot.

The council voted to buy land from Tom Peter, who has a cabinet business in a 3,000-square-foot building on the property. The city will help Peter find a new building where he can relocate Peter's Cabinet.