NEWPORT – Now that city council has agreed to a plan to create a three-sport Abbruzzi sports complex – a skate park and basketball court in addition to the existing Little League baseball field – what are the next steps?
Who will design and build the new skate park?
Spohn Ranch Skateparks of Los Angeles, Calif., Completed a preliminary design for the Newport facility when it had a larger footprint planned. It was first unveiled to the public in January 2020 at a meeting of the city’s Tree & Open Space commission.
Spohn Ranch will design and build the skate park, said Doug Sabetti, president of Friends of Newport Skatepark.
The Friends then agreed to reduce the size of the planned skatepark by a third to preserve the lawn in front of the Little League concession stand, where families spread blankets and chairs for picnics on game nights.
âWe brought the park back to what Little League wanted the boundaries of the skate park and the basketball court to be,â Sabetti told the Daily News. “We sent it back to Spohn Ranch and asked them to redesign it to stay within those limits.”
“We haven’t worked out all the details,” he said. âThey changed the plan to fit that footprint, but were going to refine it further. I said, ‘Wait. Let the city say we can do it before your time is up. ‘”
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Now that the Friends have the nod from the council, the plan so far will be presented to city officials to see what they say and then it will be refined, Sabetti said.
âWe want to make sure everything is fine with the city and Little League before we dig into the details,â he said.
Where does the funding for the basketball court come from?
In November 2019, city council approved an application for a grant from the State Department of Environmental Management for the construction of a full-size basketball court at the sports complex. Along with the skate park, they will be built at the current location of T-ball Michaud’s field.
The state approved the basketball court application and awarded the city $ 100,000, which was accepted by city council in September 2020.
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The basketball court with bleachers, fencing, wheelchair accessibility and other amenities will cost a total of $ 125,000. Under the agreement, the city will pay 20% of the costs, or $ 25,000.
Scott Wheeler, the city’s superintendent of parks, land and forests, who oversees the project, is named in the grant agreement as the city’s representative. He referred questions about the status of the plan to Tom Shevlin, the city’s communications manager, on Thursday.
Shevlin said there was a completed design for the basketball court, but that it will again be reviewed by city officials in the context of an overall design for the court and skate park.
Friends of Newport Skatepark asked Spohn to provide a skate park and basketball court layout within the agreed perimeter of the project. âWe hope to start meeting Scott Wheeler very soon,â Sabetti said. âOnce the city signs on, we’ll go back to Spohn for the final skate park design.â
How much will the skate park cost and who will pay for it?
Friends of Newport Skatepark is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that will organize fundraising to pay for the park. The board will meet on Sunday to discuss next steps, Sabetti said.
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âTo be safe, we estimate the cost to be around $ 1 million,â he said. âIt’s based on what we have that is not yet approved. A cost estimate is a fleeting thing until we finalize some things, but that’s our goal. “
âWe didn’t fundraise until the city approved the location,â Sabetti said. âNow that we have approval, we’ll soon have a ‘Donate’ button on our website,â at friendsofnewportskatepark.com.
The city has about $ 72,000 in a special account that was raised prior to the creation of Friends of Newport Skatepark, he said. The money was raised, Sabetti said, through the efforts of Sid Abbruzzi and Tim Boucher, who made building a new skate park his final year project in 2016 while he was still in school. Rogers secondary.
Boucher, now a graduate student with an MBA, returned from Hawaii for Wednesday’s board meeting, where he spoke passionately about the need for a skate park in Newport.
âIt’s wonderful that he was able to celebrate the approval and not come home depressed,â Sabetti said.
Abbruzzi, owner of the Water Brothers shop and long active in the surf and skateboard communities, co-owner of Skater Island who operated in Middletown from 2000 to 2007, so he has a lot of experience in the business.
Guillaume de Ramel announced an advance donation of $ 20,000 from the Ramel Foundation in November 2016 for a new skate park, according to the Friends website. De Ramel attended Wednesday’s board meeting.
This money is in the city’s special account, Sabetti said. The Gruben Charitable Foundation donated $ 20,000, and de Ramel was associated with another donation of $ 20,000 that also involved the Frederick Henry Prince Memorial Fund and the Newport Hospital Foundation, according to the website.
Sabetti said the organization will seek grants from other foundations and charities, as well as individuals. âWe will also seek the donation of construction services,â he said.
Jerry Kirby, a director of Kirby Perkins Construction Co., sits on the Friends advisory committee. âMaybe he can help,â Sabetti said.
What is the estimated construction schedule?
âThe timing will largely depend on the city,â Sabetti said. âWe’ve been working on our design for years and we’re pretty much ready to go. “
“We have all winter to raise adequate funds,” he added. âIf the city is ready, maybe we can start in the spring. “
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Sabetti couldn’t say how long the construction might take.
The city must have a replacement T-ball court ready at Mianonomi Park before construction of the skate park and basketball court can begin. The Aquidneck Land Trust has a conservation easement for Miantonomi Park and it may need to be amended to allow for the installation of a safety net for the field.
âI have had preliminary discussions with the executive director,â City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. said Thursday. âWe have indications that they would view it favorably. We just need to share our plan and see what needs to be changed under the restrictions of the conservation easement. “
Nicholson sees no problem looming over the project.
âIt only remains to assemble the package,â he said. âThere was no point in doing a lot of work until the decision-makers gave us direction and they did. “
The DEM grant agreement states that all construction of the basketball court must be completed by Dec.31, 2022, but Wheeler said an extension would be possible if a plan was in place.
Supporters of the plan hope no extension will be necessary.
Why the North End for new amenities?
“Our master plan shows that we are desperately short of sports resources in the North End,” said Wheeler, referring to the “open spaces master plan” developed by the Newport Open Space Partnership and its consultant, Sasaki Associates Inc., in 2017 .
He was speaking at a meeting of the Tree & Open Space Commission in October 2019.
About 65% of the city’s children live in the North End, mostly north of Admiral Kalbfus Road, according to city officials.
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The open space plan pointed out that the northern end of the city contains only 7.5% of the city’s park space and 18% of the city’s playgrounds, but 44% of the population of the city lives there.
Residents have long advocated for a new basketball court in the north, open to teens and adults, initially because the basketball court at Pell Elementary School was often not available. Now Pell’s basketball court is being removed to make way for a new eight-room addition and a bus loop.
What happened to Easton’s Beach skate park?
The town opened a skate park at Easton’s Beach in 1999, but for the most part it did not attract skateboarders and was demolished by the town in February 2017.
Several times the concrete skate park area was deserted. Sand blew into the area from the beach and rubber tore off the joints between the concrete sections, allowing the wheels to jam. The salt from the ocean also corroded the steel set in the concrete.
Skateboarders of years gone by have claimed that the skate park was designed by a construction company, not skateboarders, and was made up of prefabricated sections with elements that weren’t safe.
The area was also difficult to access from the Newport neighborhoods, as children had to walk down the busy hill from Memorial Boulevard to get there, or be driven by parents.
How did skate park funders react to the city’s approval?
âThis is wonderful news for all the children of the North End,â said Sabetti. “They’re going to have a skate park and a basketball court.”
“If this decision had not been taken last night, we would have fallen into the abyss again,” Abbruzzi said Thursday. “Instead, we are a thousand times overjoyed.”
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Opposing board members suggested finding another site, but that search was unsuccessful for a long time, according to skate park supporters. Abbruzzi said he and others have come up with options for a skate park over the years – places like Braga, Murphy and Vernon Parks, but there was still opposition.
âThey didn’t offer us anything,â he said. âThese parks have never been on the table. The adversaries never offered us a secondary option. There was no pie on the other hand.
Abbruzzi noted that city council member Elizabeth Fuerte said on Wednesday they would have to find a bigger site to build a bigger skate park. âWe want to make your dream come true,â she said.
“Sure, we’d like a bigger skate park, but what were we going to do while we waited for the city to buy some Navy property or something?” ” He asked. “We will build the best skate park possible with the site we have.”