Aspen's Rio Grande Skatepark has been around for over a decade and now, thanks to a recent change of heart by city officials, it will get a very welcome upgrade by award-winning park designers Team Pain, run by none other than "Search for Animal Chin" mega-ramp designer Tim Payne. We spoke with Payne, who was relaxing in his office down in Florida, about the upcoming project, working in one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and just what his team of skatepark designers plans on adding to the site. See also: Best Skate Park 2012 -- Arvada Skatepark
Westword: Thanks for taking time to speak with Westword. Let's talk about the recent contract for the expansion of the Aspen Rio Grande Skatepark.
Tim Payne: We built the original park. We won the National Landscape Architecture award for design off of that skatepark. It went nationwide because that park was ahead of its time, design-wise. All of our riders being skateboarders, we got tired of seeing the white concrete and being snow-blind and everything, and we asked the city if we were allowed to get donations for the project, and they were like, "Sure!" We got all the color concrete donated to the park, and some guy donated, like, $30,000 worth of boulders, and the city donated some extra landscaping. That park just turned out killer. The only thing bad was that it was a small project that was bowls, a transition area, but no street course.
It was well-received, and all the snowboarders dug it, but it was lacking in the fact that it never had the street course on it. The city finally got around to getting the addition to the street course for it, which was fourteen years later. When we built that park, we were talking about putting a dome over it so you could ride it in the wintertime, what with the X-Games being there.
I saw the renderings of the new park, but do you just approach what you already have with a new vision? There is a lot of environment and landscape around that park, so I'm curious to know what it's like to add to something like that.
Oftentimes, having site constraints helps. When you just have a big open palette, there are so many things you can do. You have your ten staples for any skatepark, but outside of that, there are thousands of different environments and obstacles you can design. Having a big, huge, flat space makes it harder to design flow. The cool thing about Aspen was how the teardrop thing in the back makes it perfect for a thirty-degree boomerang shape. We made the street course connect at three parts, and really open up flow for the whole place. Now you can drop in and out and around of the old park. That's what's critical to making it fun and unique. A lot of skateparks are real sterile. There is white concrete out in the middle of nowhere next to a basketball court. Maybe the park has some cool things in it, but the environment makes it suck.
That's the cool thing about Colorado; the trees, the hills, the mountains. Those are all things that make you feel better. You can compare it to walking on a trail next to a highway, or a trail in the woods. It's just a night-and-day difference for your senses.
Did you take into account the influence snowboarding has on skateboarding? Sort of how a mountain is smooth with the ebb and flow of carving, whereas skateboarding is a bit more staccato. How do you incorporate that mindset into the park?
I think street courses uniquely have plateaus. It's the rice-paddy effect. You have these areas that are flat, but you connect them with china banks, stairs and rails, so having the elevation drop is a huge advantage in creating something cool. Where the original bowl is, you have a nine-to-eleven-foot above-drop to the street course, so that fall allows for those elements that make street skating so much fun. It makes it fit so nicely, rather than working in a flat area where you have to create. We are just going to put some dirt in there and build the site up three feet.
Each one of your parks seems to have architectural elements that aren't typically seen in parks. Is there anything new that you are bringing to this that you are excited about?
We have some structural features that are in design right now. We are looking forward to the design process over the winter so we can get started as soon as the weather permits. We want to make this a destination park that draws people from down the mountain. It's not like we are just building another park in another city. We want it to be different than what's down the mountain.
Have you found the same support on this new project that you had on the original park?
We aren't sure about that, yet. The city is open to all of our ideas, and we just got awarded the project, and the city seems real energetic about it. I think in the design-development phase we are going to have a lot of ability to do some cool stuff there.
Are there obstacles that you run into after winning the bid?
This is a pretty straightforward process. This is nothing like New York where you deal with unions. We pull the same permits through the same entity that awarded us the project. I don't see any problems there. One thing that makes it really nice is that Public Works is going to do a lot of landscaping for us, which is huge cost-saving.
Are there ways to incorporate "green" construction into your projects? Those mountain towns love their "green" projects.
We are taking rocks and dirt from Portland and making concrete out of it. Skate parks have always been green. People always ask us if we have a green certificate. You can't be greener than us. We reuse our form boards, and the waste that's left behind is only like two dumpsters, and those are mostly filled with McDonald's wrappers and stuff. We recycle all our bottles and stuff, but our estimation is so tight on materials that we never have anything left over. We are careful when pouring concrete and make sure to capture it and get it to the dumpster. We always try to be conscious of that.
What's the projected duration for the whole construction?
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We are looking at about three months from when we break ground to the grand opening. The design implementation has two phases. One is inside the office, and the other is when the park gets built. We are the pizza guys who put the dough and sauce down, and when the guys get in the field, they put on the toppings. I'm out there site-managing and James Hedrick is the foreman for most of the Colorado parks, and he's just awesome. He's an old street skater and heavy bowl skater who still kills it. Those guys take our designs and tweak em around a bit.
Once you get on the site, does the original plan morph once you get a real lay of the land?
That's how it gets put together properly. All these companies that have an architect design the park, then it goes out for bid to somebody else, and it looks exactly how it looks on the drawing. That kills a project.
Click through for more renderings of the park, as well as awards received by Team Pain