The Hawk has been landed 

Good things come to those who skate

When Chris Bacon heard that skateboarding legend Tony Hawk wanted to bring his band of touring action-sports celebrities to Missoula, he couldn’t quite believe it. When he learned that the timing of Hawk’s appearance would line up with the grand opening of Missoula’s long-awaited skatepark, he was simply floored.

“You couldn’t have told us in the beginning, ‘When you get it done, Tony Hawk will come and skate your park,’” says Bacon, president of the Missoula Skatepark Association (MSA). “This is pretty surprising and definitely gratifying.”

It was just a year ago that MSA’s dream of a world-class skatepark was in trouble: Construction estimates had run way over what the city and the association could afford, and groundbreaking on the $650,000 facility was put on hold. But after a year of feverish fundraising and more than six months of construction, the recently named MOBASH Skatepark is ready to open—and it will do so in a big way on Sunday, Sept. 24, when Hawk and some of the sport’s biggest superstars converge on the concrete bowls at McCormick Park.

“Here we are opening it up to see the lines and skate it for the first time and we’ll be doing it with the best in the world,” says MSA Secretary Ross Peterson. “When [Bacon] told me, I got the shivers. This is the holy grail of how to open the skatepark that you’ve been working on for six years.”

Tony Hawk catapulted to fame in the early 1980s and by 1984, at the age of 16, he was widely considered the best skater in the world. Hawk went on to collect 15 ESPN X-Games medals between 1995 and 2003, and in 1999 he became the first skater ever to successfully land the “900” (two and a half midair spins). Now retired from competitive skating, he’s best known for his eight best-selling video games and a catalog of skating videos shot all over the world. Hawk is currently touring the country taping the third installment of his Secret Skatepark DVD series, and according to Hawk’s production manager Lowell MacGreger, the world-famous skater wanted to put on a demo in Missoula along the way. Sunday’s performance will be his only publicized appearance on the tour (stops at other skateparks are unannounced, hence the series’ title) and will feature Hawk’s personal $1.2 million, 23-foot-long, 13-foot-tall vert ramp for a display of aerial acrobatics.

“Get a good seat because we’re coming in hot,” Hawk wrote in a recent e-mail interview with the Independent.

In addition to Hawk, the event includes pro demos by the legend’s 14-year-old son Riley; Bam Margera of MTV’s “Jackass” and “Viva la Bam” fame; Andrew Reynolds, Thrasher magazine’s 1998 skater of the year; street-skating pioneer Mike Vallely; and X-Gamers Jason Ellis and Neal Hendrix, among others. Last year, a similar event in Boise, Idaho, drew approximately 4,000 people.

Says MacGreger of the all-star line-up: “It’s a once in a lifetime shot [for Missoula]—and it almost didn’t happen.”

When MacGreger contacted Bacon earlier this month, the park wasn’t on track for a Sept. 24 completion date. According to Bacon, subcontractors were waiting for Grindline Skateparks to finish major construction of the concrete bowls so they could put the final touches on the park. When the chance to host Hawk was presented, MSA, city officials and MacGreger worked out a plan to expedite the remaining work.

“I was just there a few days ago and the concrete is done and the gravel is in and the place is looking great,” MacGreger says.

The park had been on Hawk’s radar since May 2005, when the Tony Hawk Foundation donated $15,000 to the project, one of the largest contributions Hawk’s foundation made that year.

“Our criteria for grants is strict, so we knew the skatepark had good people behind it,” Hawk wrote, explaining his decision to hold the only publicized event on his Secret Skatepark tour in Missoula. “We only picked a handful of parks to hit for this tour, and Missoula seemed like the best one in terms of space and support to host a public event.”

Sunday’s demo marks the high point of the MSA’s long road to completion. Bacon and Peterson and dozens of dedicated skaters volunteered thousands of hours to make the skatepark a reality, and after more than six years of planning, organizing and fundraising they’re finally set to open the world-class facility.

MOBASH is made up of two main sections: an 8,400-square-foot bowl—including a kidney bowl and a larger bowl with a “cradle,” a feature that looks like the inside of a tennis ball—and a 6,400-square-foot street section with rails, curbs, steps and the signature brick banks (designed to mimic the old brick banks once found on the University of Montana campus).

But it’s not the design that really sets MOBASH apart from other skateparks. Hawk’s foundation has been involved mostly because of what it means to the overall community.

“It represents everything we try to accomplish with our foundation: motivated skaters working with city officials to provide a quality facility in their area,” Hawk wrote.

That type of relationship is something the MSA plans to continue. Even though the park is complete, Bacon says his organization will continue with its mission of bringing skateboarding opportunities to the state.

“We’ve created this great network and we want to help continue to get skate-parks in Montana in general, so I don’t think we’re going to go away,” says Bacon. “We just want to help perpetuate skateboard-ing in Montana…it’s a good feeling to know we’re coming toward the end of our first real big step and we’ve helped to provide a lot of kids with something they deserve to have.”

The grand opening of the Missoula Skatepark, located in McCormick Park adjacent to the Orange Street bridge, is Sunday, Sept. 24, beginning at noon with pro demos by Tony Hawk and others. Parking is limited and the event is free. Following Sunday’s grand-opening festivities, Missoula’s MOBASH Skatepark will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily.

jadams@missoulanews.com

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