September 30, 2009
Concrete and masonry
Vancouver's Spectrum Skatepark Creations dominates market
Twenty-five years ago, Jim Barnum was inspired by comic icon Archie Andrews zooming down the streets of the fictional town of Riverdale on a skateboard.
“I asked for a skateboard that Christmas, and I was hooked,” said Barnum, now president of Vancouver’s Spectrum Skatepark Creations, Canada’s only firm specializing in the design and construction of eco-friendly municipal concrete skateboard parks.
He got his start designing and building parks in 1998 when he and friends were complaining about the old, beat-up municipal skatepark in Whistler.
“We went to the Parks Department and they surprised us by saying, ‘Sure, sounds great, but you’d better draw it up,’” he said.
“My dad is an architect and he showed me how to draw up the plans.”
The new 10,000-square-foot project was built next to the old park.
He ended up as the project manager on the city payroll and set about bringing innovation to skatepark design.
The old park was in poor condition and the top coat was spalling, cracking and delaminating.
On the advice of a concrete contractor the new park was a single thick pour, six inches of solid concrete, slab on grade.
He next designed a park for Burns Lake, B.C. and followed it with a design for Calgary, at the time, the world’s largest park.
“Many parks were built without a full understanding of what makes a good skatepark. In the early days I did a lot of traveling and measuring to try to understand what made a park work,” said Barnum.
“One of the key elements is a concept called flow — you want to travel through the skatepark without too much effort and move from one element to another at the right speed in a logical fashion.”
His initial dream was to design roller-coasters, which later became the inspiration for skateboard park design.
In 2005, the company became a construction contractor, but afterwards arranged to partner with Radius Contracting of Comox B.C. to provide construction services.
While materials for each job are sourced locally and earthmoving services are contracted out, concrete work is provided by a tightly-knit group of hand-picked experts, who oversee initial contract work, then tie the rebar and place and finish the concrete.
“We hire skateboarders with construction experience,” he said.
“We usually have four to five guys working on a park and they know the very particular requirements of the job.”
Some of the workers have been there since the beginning with some there more than 10 years.
“From the beginning our builders have been inventing their own tools, including custom one-offs designed only for one type of job,” he explained.
“They’ve gotten to the point of going to a welder to fabricate a very specific type of trowel.”
The finish is extremely important in skateboard park construction.
“A lot of the experience involves waiting until the concrete is just right to allow a glassy smooth finish, without causing slumping, bumps or waves, to create the smooth skating experience we’re looking for,” Barnum.
“It’s an incredible learning curve to figure out how to do this, and it’s experience you just can’t easily pass on. Then of course there are the free-form sections in a skatepark, where there are so many complex curves that a drawing simply can’t communicate what has to happen there. Those truly require the skater’s eye.”
Today, the company has more than 90 skateparks across the world under its belt, homing in on one million square feet of skate park construction.
Canadian projects include parks in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and Saint John’s with international projects in the U.S., the U.K, and France.
Currently, Spectrum is wrapping up a skatepark in Campbellford, Ont. and has designs on the books for projects in Whitehorse, Quebec City, Moncton, Mexico and Cambodia.
Barnum particularly values the endorsement of celebrity pro skater Tony Hawk.
“If Spectrum is in charge we have confidence you’ll end up with a high-quality park,” the skateboarding icon once commented.
He provided the glowing review after checking out the Hastings bowl the company built in Vancouver, B.C., the company’s fourth park
|MOST POPULAR STORIES|
|TODAY’S TOP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS|
These projects have been selected from 443 projects with a total value of $1,866,277,015 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Tuesday.
$120,000,000 Langley, Dist Mun BC CANCELLED/ DEFERRED
$60,000,000 Vancouver BC Prebid
$50,000,000 Langley, Dist Mun BC Prebid
- Construction Site Arson
- Historic church renovation reaches new heights
- Hiring of foreign workers for hospital project outrages union
- Acetylene torch explosion causes significant damage
- Festival of Architecture hits Halifax
- Winnipeg Southwest Transitway wins award
- Vendor performance is key measurement
- NDP leader spoke to police about corruption
- Big contract down under for ATCO Structures
- RFQ issued for Kamloops hospital project
- VIDEO: Economic Update May 21, 2013
- Future tradespeople put to the test
- Ontario raiding season closes with a thud
- Bird flags challenges in Canadian construction
- Ontario commits to Hwy. 427 expansion
- GO Transit to build new maintenance facility in East Gwillimbury
- Ancient First Nations site damaged during work by BC Hydro
- Federal NDP leader speaks to police 'to help' with Quebec corruption probe
|ALEX’S ECONOMICS BLOG|
Reed Construction Data Canada’s Chief Economist Alex Carrick discusses current developments in the North American economic environment with emphasis on the construction industry.
- An Overview of Prices and Sales in the Diverging U.S. and Canadian Housing Markets (April 25, 2013)
- Canada’s Precarious Dependence on the Commodity Price Super-Cycle (April 22, 2013)
- Twenty major upcoming residential and transportation terminal construction projects - April 2013 (April 15, 2013)