Bath considers skatepark alternatives

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BATH — One of the city’s social hubs for young people faces a variety of fates, including renovation or construction of a new building.

City Manager Bill Giroux presented the City Council with several alternatives for the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark on Wednesday. Public forums will be held next month for the city to gather input. The project the city chooses will likely need voter approval, Giroux said.

Since much of the skatepark’s home at the old YMCA on Summer Street has become dilapidated with time, the city sought the aid of Stephen Blatt Architects in determining the fate of the aging structure.

The skatepark measures more than 10,000 square feet. Renovation of that portion of the old YMCA would cost $1.3 million, according to information provided by the city. The cost for the existing skatepark to be demolished and a new structure to be built on the site would be nearly $1.8 million. Both options would require the skatepark to be closed up to 18 months.

Moving the Skatepark to the now-vacant Armory would incur two costs: acquisition, $312,000, and renovation, $2.2 million.

Another option would be to build a new structure elsewhere for the skatepark. Giroux said one piece of available land is near the Armory in the five corners area, off Congress Avenue. A 5,166-square-foot building would cost $1 million, while a larger one of 6,800 square feet would be $1.3 million. A 10,472-square-foot building, equal to the existing skatepark, would cost nearly $2 million.

“The actual smoothest transition … is to build new, because we can make that old building last until then, probably,” Giroux said. “So the kids would skate in their building for two more years, (or) 2 1/2 more years, and at the end of that point they’d move in, the next day, to a brand new building.”

Giroux mentioned the possibility of creating a tax increment financing district at the planned downtown Hampton Inn hotel, and potentially using as much as $1.4 million of those funds to offset the cost of a skatepark project.

Following the public forums, Giroux suggested, the skatepark board could work with the architect to create a proposal that the council would consider no later than August. This would provide enough time for a referendum to be held in November.

“It’s a fairly tight timeline,” he said, “but from now until August the forums would be held, public input would be gathered, so the solution would be developed to be considered by the council, then the council would decide whether to forward it to the voters.”

James Omo was among councilors who supported the forums and the facility. “We can’t do without the skatepark; we need the skatepark,” he said. “It’s been a great part of the community, a lot of kids have gone in there, and stayed out of trouble by going there. I think a lot of good has come from the skatepark.”

In other business, Giroux said Bath’s fiscal 2010 budget would be reviewed by the council at its May meeting. The council will vote on the budget in June. Giroux said he anticipates an increase of less than 2 percent, although he expects the council could make cuts.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.