In a city where consensus is about as scarce as Grizzlies’ victories, the plan for a skatepark on Mud Island is about as close as it gets.
From the inception of the idea, the skatepark has amassed an impressive group of advocates, but none are more impressive than the grassroots supporters that come in all sizes, all ages and all colors.
All in all, the notion of building the skatepark at the southern tip of Mud Island – where it would be a dependable source of vibrancy and a magnet for skating families – is as close to a no brainer as any project we’ve seen for downtown Memphis.
We were hoping that the plans to build the park would be under way by now, but it’s hit the proverbial bump in the road. The Riverfront Development Corporation – which has pushed the project ahead – has now pushed the pause button, because it now wants to develop a master plan for Mud Island.
We can understand the reasons for this, but nonetheless, we are deeply disappointed that the project has slowed. The feasibility study for the skatepark showed that it is, in a word, feasible, and more to the point, it has the potential to be the preeminent skatepark location in the entire country.
While we are admittedly envious of the Louisville Skatepark – particularly how the mayor there acted as chief salesman for the project – that site near the river doesn’t come close to the proposed Mud Island site on the river. Even the imaginatively-challenged can easily envision the spectacular backdrop that the Memphis skatepark would have for nationally-televised competitions.
While the idea of animating the riverfront with a use this cool is reason enough for excitement, the chance to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Mud Island offers park operators much-needed opportunities for revenues and new activities.
We’ve not met anyone in years who we admire than Dr. Aaron Shafer, the St. Jude Children’s Hospital researcher spearheading this project. His work on the skate park is a reminder for Memphis as it tries to do better in attracting young professionals: Sometimes, it’s not the mega-project, but the smaller projects – the ones generating activity and vibrancy – that offer the most immediate returns on investment with this coveted demographic.
His diagnosis is that the skatepark would go a long way to keeping people like him in Memphis, and that’s as powerful a reason for building it as we can think of. To his credit, however, Dr. Shafer’s motivation is to create a place where at-risk children can find a wholesome environment for exercise and where the $3 million skatepark can be used as the lure that brings them into contact with role models and mentors for their lives.
Here’s hoping that the RDC can find a way to expedite the decision and move the project ahead. In the meantime, if you’d like to stay up-to-date on the skatepark and register your support for it, visit Skatelife Memphis blog.