June 1, 2008 saw a new attraction open in downtown Houston, Tex., the $2.7 million Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark. In announcing the park’s grand opening, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department reported that the new facility would “not only put Houston on the map as one of the nation’s best venues for this fast-growing, dynamic sport it will also provide a great place for skaters to work on their kick flip, ollie, fakie big spin… or simply learn to stay balanced!”
The 30,000 square foot park is the first world-class, in-ground skatepark in the region. It features areas for skaters of all levels, from the seasoned pro to the beginner. Teaming up to create the park design were the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Houston’s Clark Condon Associates Landscape Architecture and Grindline, the Seattle-based skatepark design specialists. Houston Parks Board, along with skatepark advocacy organization PUSH (Public Use Skateparks for Houston), spearheaded the funding and public input process. Construction of the park was done by Houston contractor, D.L. Meacham Construction.
Romtec was selected to supply a public restroom/office building designed in cooperation with landscape architect Jamie Hendrixson, Senior Associate with Clark Condon Associates. The pre-engineered concrete building includes men’s and women’s restrooms, a mechanical room and an air-conditioned office fitting in just 750 square feet. With its bright blue roof, the sturdy, concrete building stands next to Houston’s gleaming skyline just off of the Sabine Street Bridge in Eleanor Tinsley Park.
Grand Opening day was exciting enough, with jam sessions featuring professional skaters such as Shawn White, but the buzz about the skatepark has continued. “The park manages to be drop-dead cool…an official City of Houston institution, a place where dads skate alongside their sons,” reported Lisa Gray in the March 17, 2009 Houston Chronicle. “Helmets are required, kneepads encouraged. The bathrooms are clean.”
The Romtec restroom/office building was one of the last parts of the project to be completed before the park opened. According to Charlie Willing, who managed the project for D.L. Meacham, the total building construction required just three weeks from foundation excavation to finish. “It went together well,” said Willing. “We put the actual building together in about a week and a half.”
[pullquote]“It is a lot harder than other cities in the area,” she noted. “We got through this with [Romtec’s] help.”[/pullquote]Jamie Hendrixson worked closely with Romtec staff to achieve the final building design. ““There was a lot of back and forth communication; we started with a basic building then added [features],” said Hendrixson. Houston has some strict building codes, such as energy codes, and you have to get all the appropriate signatures. “It is a lot harder than other cities in the area,” she noted. “We got through this with [Romtec’s] help.”
The building is aligned on the site with the long side facing into the skatepark. This places the entrances to the men’s and women’s restrooms, the mechanical room and the office all on the same side of the building. Two roll-up curtain windows provide secure closure for the office service counters. Admission to the park is free, but skaters must sign in and out, so the counters receive steady traffic.
“Once they are in the park, skaters are greeted by staff,” noted site supervisor Kyle Klebowski. “If it’s their first visit, skaters must sign up for a membership card that is part of the Park and Recreation Department tracking system.” All skaters must wear helmets and for new skaters there is a half hour of free instruction.
“The park is staffed like a pool,” said Hendrixson. “There’s instruction and safety staff.” Although the building was not part of the original park design, the restroom/office facility was added to the project “when they realized how much the facility would be used.”
Saying the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark is a popular attraction is putting it mildly. “People come from miles around,” said Willing. Following the anniversary of the park’s opening SkateHouston.info commented, “It was one year ago today that the city opened the downtown skatepark and since then over 60,000 skaters have skated the park, numerous demos and contests have been held, countless spectators and photographers have documented the facility and its legacy continues to grow.”
A measure of the park’s success is its use by families. “I’ve talked to parents who drive into the city for the skatepark,” said Hendrixson. “They spend all day there with the kids.”