Gauteng has a new skatepark, and it’s called YBF Plaza. It is situated at 54 Hornbill Road, Bryanston, Johannesburg. The opening is this Saturday. If you’re in Joburg, get there! We caught up with the director of the project, Lee Webber, to chat about the opening…
What does the YBF stand for?
Young Blood Forever.
What was the motivation behind opening the skatepark?
There has been a vision to have a skatepark on the campus for over 8 years now. I think the main motivation was always to create a safe place for the youth to skate/ride and give us the opportunity to build and positively influence the people that use it.
Tell us about your launch day event this weekend…
From the beginning we were keen to make a big day out of it, but so far the event planning, sponsor involvement and interested users have surprised us with how big it has become. The day consists of a skate competition for U12’s, U16’s, Ladies, Open and Pro’s. During lunch and towards the end of the day we have a team of BMX riders that will be involved with a BMX Demo on the park. These guys have been very helpful in getting the word out and are planning a BMX comp sometime around June. There will also be loads for the kids to do with the field being set up with a climbing wall, water inflatables, slides, train, mechanical surf board and a play station marquee.
Why did you decide to go for a more plaza style skatepark?
I grew up skating street, simply because the closest real skate park was at least an hours drive from my house. In addition to my love for a street set up I also think that most of the Joburg parks have more of a bowl/vert vibe. We were excited to add something different and more modern in terms of design. The feedback we’ve had has been very positive.
South Africa has had quite a few skateparks open and close over the years. Why do you think that is? What do you think will make YBF Plaza stick around?
I think there are a few reasons for that. One reason is that people who build a park to make money usually build in an affluent area. The downside is that the overheads that go towards the rented property are too high compared to the fees charged over and above the initial layout for building the park. On the other side you have people that offer a piece of land to use in an area with little to no value and you usually end up with a park that is not cared for and is not safe to use because of crime in the area. Often the parks are built on public or commercial properties that get shut down as soon as the next development needs land or the need for a higher return on investment arises. YBF Plaza will stick around because it is a private church project funded by the church to serve the community. The park is more valuable to us than the parking bays it was built on. We expect it to run successfully for many years.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced building the park?
With the usual building delays and having to move the opening date twice. I think the biggest challenge is trying to end up with a perfect product in a country where there is not much experience when it comes to building a skatepark.
Is the park free or do you have to pay to skate? What made you decide to take this approach?
You would need to pay to use the park. A daily fee can be paid or the users have the option of a 1 month, 3 month or 6 month pass. All of the latter will present a saving. The main two motivations for this approach is that to the user there is more of a structured environment that places more value on the park. The second reason is that we wanted the park to be self sufficient in that the funds brought in could potentially cover the costs for flood lights, electricity, daily cleaning, sweeping and general maintenance.
How do you feel about helmet rules?
We feel that the right thing to do is that anyone under 18 years old should wear a helmet, a user over the age of 18 can sign a helmet waiver form should he wish to do so.
Who designed and built the park?
We had a basic idea of how we wanted the park to be structured early on but it was Clive Crofton that designed and sketched the park up. 95% of the construction work was done by his company Spyda Ramps.
Is the park open to everyone i.e. skateboarders, boxers, rollerbladers?
The park is open to everyone. Depending how busy it gets we may split some sessions and specify who uses the park on certain days.
Anything else we should know?
Nothing springs to mind.
Photo: Tim Moolman