Real skateboarding pinball – Skateball


The 70’s was a funny time in skateboarding. At times, the industry and the public at large tended to view it almost as a carnival ride or amusement park attraction. Case in point, Skateball. I received a couple old pictures of a Skateball installation at the Olympic Skatepark in Crystal Lake Illinois a few years back when SnA was being updated on a very infrequent basis. Seeing the Radical post reminded me of them, so I dug them up. Fortunately, I was still able to contact Jeff Hottle for some larger scans, and he obliged with a few bonus shots as well. Skateball was basically pinball on a halfpipe, where the skater simulated the ball. It’s one of those things you hear rumors about but don’t quite give them credit unless you actually see it. Five pictures and a little history after the jump.

Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il. Circa 1978-1979

Here’s Jeff’s description of the park and photos.

They show the “scoring” part of the ramp and the sensors on the ramp itself. The shots were taken aprox. Winter 78-79 at the Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake, IL. They had a four foot tall version of the Skateball ramp too. This one was 8′ tall I think, maybe to vert, no coping. I never saw these functioning at Olympic, but at Chicago’s Rainbo skatepark they had two of the tall SkateBalls. They had Skateball contests every Saturday, where you would put in your 50 cents and the game would begin. Whoever hit the targets in the shortest time would win. The touch-pads would light up usually from low to high on the ramp. Skaters soon learned the pattern and could easily fakie back and forth knowing exactly when and where the lights would come on. My guess was that by the fall of 78 the contest fizzled out. Rainbo also had a “Rush-Hour” contest every week in their small (4ft tall) bowl/ramp. Skaters had to chase down the guy in front of them in the bowl. The bowl only had one actual corner to it, and was really an “X” criss-cross half-pipe with the one corner in it. It was a blast to ride though.

Check out Jeff’s original skatepark ID from the Olypmic Skatepark. Notice it says “Olympic Skateboard Arena” instead of skatepark. Jeff would like to make a motion to solicit pictures of Rainbo Skatepark in Chicago from the 77-79 era, as he has never seen any. I second that motion. Send ’em in if you have any. Click the pictures below to enlarge.

Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il

Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il

Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il

Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il

Jeff Hottle
Skateball at Olympic Skatepark, Crystal Lake Il

Mike Marino
Mike Marino - Skateball


  1. The Doctor on September 11, 2007 - Reply

    I scored higher than chris cook and still lost!

  2. You’ve got to be kidding me.

  3. Simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen…

  4. SOMEBODY with silk-screening skills should make a shirt w/ that “skateball” logo. i’d buy one!

  5. That’s what The Clown Ramp was built from..

  6. No kidding. It reminded me of pictures I’d seen, but I didn’t realize it actually was the clown ramp.

    Some old ramps never die. In Hood River OR there is a half pipe with transitions made from the frame of one of those old plexiglass Firestone ramps.

  7. Clown ramp rules! had to be there.
    are you out there Billy Smith?

  8. Damn -i was hoping to be the first to call it out. What a flashback. That’s crazy that the same ramp was a part of two totally diffent scenes and places in time. They had the mini ramps set up there too, or at least they were in a pile in a corner.

    That ramp was slicker n’ snot. Same for the Little Rock ramp. I have some photos I’ll have to dig out.

    What was the ramp called at the Zorlac shop? I saw a contest there or at least a major session with my parents and freaked on the scene. Early eighties.

    Go Texas.

  9. That Skate Ball logo does rule.

  10. Tom Wible on December 23, 2008 - Reply

    I visited Olympics a few times and it was very cool. Biddle’s in Milwaukee had the same ramps except no 4 footer. I will be putting together a website chronicling Racine, WI skate scenes of the late 70’s soon.

    -Tom Wible

  11. mike grzyb on April 18, 2009 - Reply

    hey tom hows it going .kurts got a facebook .

  12. Greg57 on May 9, 2012 - Reply

    Does anyone know where i can get one the scoreboards or the lights for these ramps? or any contacts on getting a hold of these ramps?

  13. Hell's Gazelles on October 26, 2014 - Reply

    The Hell’s Gazelles remembers the Olympic, because we ruled over it, held radical sway. We remember the owner and his badass Dodge “Little Red Express” pickup. We also remember that the riders for Tom Thumb were a bunch of old ladies. After the Olympic closed, the ramps were abandoned in a field in Palatine, but it seems they went on to find a home. Those photos bring back a lot of great memories, thanks for posting them, amigo.

  14. Donald Burnet on March 2, 2017 - Reply

    As I am just seeing this now, I will revive the thread; I used to really like skating the Skateball Ramps, but I would’ve preferred they didn’t have the silly plastic buttons to get in the way. Also of note was the big clear Lexan Firestone half pipe. At least it seemed big to me back then. I think it had 4 feet of vert, 22 ft diameter. As for the fabled Tom Thumb team, we were young boys not old ladies! Now I’m old….
    Last time I skated a skatepark? Monday…?

Leave a Reply

Want an avatar? Upload a Globally Recognized Avatar for free at Note: Avatars are tied to a single email address, including comments left before the system was activated.

 eBay Watch 

Shot of the Week
December 2nd

American GI

May - June 2015 - 68 items

eBay Action

Grover's Video Korner #100
Burnside Halloween 2015

Grover's Video Korner

Annoying Kid of the Month
Generic Segway at the skatepark

Annoying Kid of the Month

Categories and Archives

Tag Cloud

Search and Annoy

Search Skate and Annoy - Daily

Search in Features, Ebay Watch, GVK...

Search in Galleries

Search in Reviews

This is none of your business