The First Fifty

The most durable and popular skateparks are concrete. Not surprisingly, these are also the kind that qualify for THF Skatepark Grants (Photo: Miki Vuckovich).

With well over 600 skatepark projects awarded grants across the nation, the Tony Hawk Foundation has developed a deep understanding about what works in skate places. Wherever a skatepark opens, its greatest beneficiaries are the people who live in the immediate area. The benefits are enhanced when best practices are followed. The facility’s relationship to the neighborhood’s “center,” its design and construction, and the policies and programming are all critical factors in getting the most out of the community investment.

These practices have not always been easy to learn. While rare, skateparks sometimes fail to meet community expectations. Within each of these situations is a valuable lesson to be learned about sustainability and community values. To explore this idea, THF staff compared the first 50 skateparks to open after receiving a THF construction grant to the latest 50 to open. Comparing these two groups of projects—our “first” projects and our “latest” projects—reveals some interesting differences and similarities.

Grants Got Larger
The total awarded amount has grown significantly since our earliest grants. As the organization gained experience and insight, staff developed more confidence in the types of projects that were being offered grants. With greater confidence came larger grant amounts. On average, grant amounts have risen by 171% (adjusted for inflation).

Skateparks Got Larger
The amount of grant dollars awarded has also grown, along with the size of the facilities. The first batch of 50 open skateparks were 8,200 square feet, on average. The newest batch enjoys an 11,000-square-foot average size.

Skateparks Got More Durable
Today, THF only offers grants to permanent, concrete skateparks, but that wasn’t always so. In 2002, temporary skateparks (prefab ramps and other temporary skate structures) were eligible for THF grants. Ten of the first 50 skateparks awarded grants by THF are no longer open today for a variety of reasons, but they were all “prefabricated” ramp-style parks. Today, only permanent concrete skateparks are eligible for THF grants.

Skateparks Opened Up
15 years ago, community fears around skateparks were more pronounced. Skateparks were anticipated to draw unprecedented amounts of juvenile delinquency. To anticipate closures—either for cleaning, punishment, or to regulate access—more than 40% of THF-granted skateparks were surrounded by security fences. Today, only about 6% of THF-granted skateparks are surrounded by security fences.

Some Things Remain the Same
There isn’t much difference in the number of skatepark facilities offering lights for evening use. About 1-in-20 skateparks are lighted for night skating.

Skateparks are being positioned near sports fields or in sports complexes at approximately the same frequency as before. One-in-five skatepark are located adjacent to sports fields.

Modern THF-funded skateparks remain 100% free to visit and never require proof of residency, guardian approval, or any other barrier to entry. Grant applicants must demonstrate that their parks will be accessible and sustainable. THF-granted skateparks unanimously serve low-income communities, but will frequently draw visitors from around the world.

At the Tony Hawk Foundation we believe that everyone—young and old—should have access to a safe, local place to skate.

The first 50 THF-supported skateparks to open have some interesting similarities and differences to the most recent 50.

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Tony Hawk Foundation
A charitable, non-profit organization, the Tony Hawk Foundation was established in 2002 by its namesake, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. THF promotes and provides advocacy training and funds for high-quality public skateparks in low-income areas throughout the United States that promote healthy, active lifestyles, and to International programs that enrich the lives of youth through skateboarding.

Domestically, the Foundation’s Skatepark Grant programs have awarded over $9-million to 623 communities in all 50 States, including $3-million through its Built to Play Skatepark Program in partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. THF focuses on working with local officials and grassroots, community-based organizations that plan to hire designers and contractors with strong experience designing and building skateparks.

The Foundation’s International Program has provided technical support to skatepark projects on every continent and awarded $150,000 to assist youth through the Skateistan educational programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa (

The Tony Hawk Foundation was established by a gift from Tony Hawk. Its directors raise additional funds through events, donations, and continuing contributions from Tony and other entities. For more information, visit the Foundation’s Web site at You can also visit THF on facebook and Instagram @tonyhawkfoundation, and on Twitter @THF.