Posted by:on January 29th, 2008
As a followup to our earlier coverage of the Jacksonville Beach, Florida skatepark, here’s some more info on Spohn Ranch and their prefab concrete option. Aaron Spohn got his professional start building ramps for the X Games in 1992. According to their official correspondence, Spohn Ranch has some sort of ongoing partnership agreement with Pillar Design Studios as well as an organization called the Action Park Alliance whom they bill as “skatepark operations professionals.” (Uuuugh! That’s a topic for a different post altogether.) Spohn Ranch also builds metal, wood and alternative surface prefab ramps, but I’ve highlighted the concrete offerings. (Updated)
Spohn Ranch prefab concrete
I’d hoped to get some detailed info about what they had to offer, but instead I got a link to PDF of marketing fluff, generic company info and a vague product brochure.
ORIGIN: MY OBSESSION WITH SKATING BEGAN ON THE STREETS OF LOS ANGELES IN 1972, when I got my fi rst skateboard at the age of twelve. Always pushing the limits, I soon began building makeshift ramps, getting more than my share of bruises and broken bones. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to build the perfect place to skate.
In my first municipal project, a group of friends and I lobbied the city for a skatepark in Venice. We attended countless meetings, built models and made speeches, but our park was never built.
Taking matters into my own hands, I built the biggest half- pipe in Southern California in my backyard. Soon, one half- pipe became two and three roommates became twelve. It became impossible to keep our little skate spot a secret and before long, “Spohn Ranch” was a destination for skaters from around the world.
Soon after, ESPN partnered with Spohn Ranch to design and build the X-Games competition courses for the first five years of the event. We have since provided courses for every major skateboard and BMX competition.
Sharing our experience in design, engineering and specialty fabrication, the Spohn Ranch family has produced over 400 skateparks for communities all across the world. We pride ourselves in serving every community’s youth with the same level of quality as the X-Games.
As the skatepark industry continues to grow, what truly separates us from our competitors is our level of dedication and our passion for what we do. We are a company of uniquely talented people, all with a zeal for action sports. To us, skateparks are a whole lot more than just another product to sell. I know how important they can be to kids who have nowhere to skate safely and legally.
I suppose my desire as a 12 year-old to build a perfect place to skate has never been completely satisfi ed. Until it is, Spohn Ranch will continue to do what we’ve done for years: build the best skateparks in the world.
PHILOSOPHY: IF A SKATEPARK ISN’T RIGHT, IT’S WRONG! Skateboarding is finally accepted by the masses. More and more communities are building skateparks. Unfortunately, a large number of bad parks are being built.
I truly feel for the kids who wished so hard and waited so long for a park and then got poorly arranged sub-standard ramps or a concrete bowl that rides like a washboard. Many sales people and general contractors don’t know the first thing about a skatepark, but they often have the biggest impact on the final product.
When the kids become bored or can’t safely skate their park, they go back to the streets and are then held out as the problem. “We built you a park and you didn’t even use it!”
The truth is that designing and building skateparks isn’t easy. A skatepark designer needs years of experience to understand how structures and surfaces skate. Few designers develop the skater’s eye required to create a course with proper flow.
Spohn Ranch isn’t an industry newcomer rushing to sell as many ramps as possible before the fad dies. We are a friends-and- family-owned business that specializes and believes in action sports. We listen to the desires of both kids and community and then help create unique solutions. From planning to operation, we know this industry very well and we love to share our knowledge.
There are many options for park development and design. We know that certain park elements work better in concrete and some translate better as ramps with a Skatelite surface. We also understand that budget, climate and site requirements are all factors in the final equation. For this reason we offer several product and service options to fit every need. We won’t sell you a ramp if you need a bowl or go forward with any design unless we know it works.
Our goal is to build something that’s custom, unique and truly right for your community. Everyone in our organization shares this goal. From salespeople to engineer to installer, we’re here to do our best for you.
Here’s a few pages of the concrete-specific information. You can click to enlarge them. It’s an interesting technique to be sure. They bring up some valid points and show examples of some shoddy hand poured and finished concrete. To be fair though, they aren’t really implying that all hand poured jobs will be poor, they are just saying that a hand pour is more expensive and has the potential to be sub-par whereas the manufactured nature of their product is supposed to ensure uniform results. Raise your hand if you’ve ever skated a poorly made concrete skatepark. (Raise your hand again if you’ve ever skated a prefab park that wasn’t a POS within a year of it’s construction…) While they may be on to something, It doesn’t look like they have a very large installed base.
While the aim of the brochure is to cast doubts on the hand poured park, there is one subtle but very important difference that they fail to point out. Check out the difference between the precast and hand pour photos in the document below left: Notice the hand pour has a waterfall and thus varying depths, while the pre-cast version has all the same transition and is the same height everywhere withthe exception of an extension, which is not the same effect as having a bowl of multiple depths.
The coping reveal in the left document below looks pretty burly. It looks like it might have an outter cometal covering. If not, I’d hate to have to try and figure out how to replace the cement coping after a few years of hard use. Traditional pool coping and fake pool coping poured in sections can be pulled up and relaid. In the document on the right, the bowl section is highly reminiscent of those above ground pools. Something tells me the experience of skating one of those would be similar to swimming in one of those pools; enjoyable, but not as fun as the real thing.
The page on the left (below) further illustrates the cookie cutter nature of a prefab tranny park. It’s essentially the same obstacle repeated everywhere. If you prefer tranny, that experience can certainly be made the most of, but it means a park that is ultimately not very challenging long term. Skating one section will be exactly like skating any other section. This can be find if you prefer to concentrate on making your tricks, but part of the fun of some of the world’s most memorable parks is usually adapting to the varied change-ups in terrain. The right hand document shows a little bit of the installation process. It would be very interesting to see some of the construction process, but they might consider that a trade secret.
Prefab for a street obstacle might be a good way to go however, since a lot of (most?) street skaters prefer to concentrate on the one-hitter, and even when stringing them together, getting from one point to the next is often more incidental. Prefab for the street skate spot level? Why not?
Leave a Reply