Flat gray clouds blanketing the sky overhead warned of an impending downpour. But on Jan. 21, Greensboro’s skating community was too hyped to be turned away from the opening of the Glenwood Skate Spot by the mere threat of dreary weather.
They’d waited for this for more than a decade.
Skateboarding in Greensboro has been a point of contention. In the past, the city could claim the one of the oldest skateparks in the state: 915 Skatepark opened in the late ’90s near UNCG. Yet in the mid-2000s, Greensboro outlawed skateboarding downtown, with the police inflicting a hefty $200 fine on top of impounding any offender’s board; UNCG also cracked down on skaters flowing through their campus. Soon after, 915 shuttered.
But in 2006, voters approved a $575,000 bond to build a public skatepark. Somewhere. Sometime.
In the meantime, skaters built DIY elements scattered in clandestine reaches of town.
In 2014, the skating community assembled an advisory team and later approved designs for both a full-sized skatepark and a smaller skate spot. The former will be constructed along Latham Park northwest of downtown; the latter was planned behind Glenwood Recreation Center using a pre-existing concrete slab.
Time passed by as slowly as ever until that glum January day arrived.
Before the official ribbon-cutting began, skateboarders, rollerskaters and bikers of all ages showed off their ollies, kickflips and shuvits on the 4,000 square-foot concrete plaza under the matching sky. A platform centered the skate spot, flanked on either side by quarter-pipes with rails.
It was simple, but clearly appreciated.
The rec center’s skinny parking strip had filled to the brim by 3:30 p.m. Cars crowded adjacent streets. Dozens milled about, including many kids who took advantage of the cupcakes and other snacks offered.
Then, Fabio Camara stepped into the middle of the plaza.
“We’re gonna clear the park so we can have this ribbon-cutting ceremony,” Camara called to the skaters still wheeling by him. “Save it for the best trick!”
Camara, a photographer who’s skateboarded for 30 years — since his childhood in Brazil — was part of the six-skater advisory team formed three years prior, and he approved of the results.
“The spot has just enough elements to give skaters hours of entertainment without taking away too much from our original skatepark budget,” Camara said after the event. “It is perfectly what we imagined for that location.”
Funnily enough, for all that waiting, it only took about two weeks to complete the skate spot according to Camara.
With a podium bearing the Greensboro Parks & Recreation Department logo hastily scurried onto the slab, Councilwoman Sharon Hightower — representative of District 1, which includes Glenwood — was one of the best-received speakers to mark the occasion.
“We talk about baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer,” Hightower said. “And now, we can skate.”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” a bystander shouted approvingly as others applauded.
“I’m gonna debate getting on a skateboard later, as long as you have EMS standing by,” Hightower quipped to laughter.
Camara also took a moment to address the crowd.
“[City council members] were open to our suggestions, and they made it so that skateboarding will have a future in this community,” Camara said.
Parks Director Wade Walcutt, who had spoken before Hightower, added some final thoughts before the ribbon cutting.
“Skating elements like this don’t pop up everywhere,” Walcutt said. “It’s pieces like this that make us special.”
Board Paradise, a skate shop in Greensboro’s Midtown, had prepared to sponsor a trick contest, awarding finalists with $300, two boards, decks, wheels and more. More than a dozen aspired to win the various prizes, and Board Paradise allowed a few minutes for the participants to warm up.
Their emcee spat some words of encouragement peppered with trash talk.
“We’re not gonna give all the prizes away at once,” he said. “You might end up with money. You might end up with product. You might end up with a girlfriend.
“I don’t wanna see you fall,” he added, “but at the same time, I do.”
And then the rains came.
The sprinkling seemed bearable at the outset. Most of the assembled crowd simply huddled under provided tents, and the skaters themselves continued practicing on the glazed concrete.
But the sky soon opened, and a torrential downpour threatened the safety even of veteran tricksters. Attendees scattered for their cars, and the contest was cancelled. Some skaters received gear then and there, but the cash prize would have to wait.
Glenwood Skate Spot still proved a watershed moment for Greensboro’s skateboarding community.
“Our long-term vision is to create several spots in key locations that work as supplemental skate options to the centrally located Latham Skatepark,” Camara stated after the ceremony, referring to the planned massive skatepark on Hill Street north of Green Hill Cemetery.
Camara called the planned Latham Park location — under construction and tentatively opening this April — as “the real skatepark,” but noted Glenwood Skate Spot “a taste of what’s to come for Greensboro.”