The future is concrete
One-time rebels turn their skateboard expertise into a respected profession
By Lisa Baker
Portland Tribune - Business Tribune
January 28, 2003
Ten years ago, they were viewed as outcasts, dropouts and neer-do-wells whose nightly activities required the presence of a lookout.
Now, their skills are in demand in broad daylight, and cities that once might have sent cops after them are sending them checks instead. Thats the Cinderella story of Portland-based Dreamland Skateparks LLC, a group of skateboarders whose skateboard park designs are drawing worshipful reviews from national skateboarding magazines and a lineup of contracts from cities looking to reach out to their disenfranchised youth. In the past nine years, the Dreamland team - Mark Scott, Mike Swim, Jeff Kimbrough, Tavita Scanlon and Sage Bolyard - has designed and built standout parks in the Oregon towns of Newberg, Lincoln City, Redmond, Port Orford, Hood River, Astoria, Brookings, Klamath Falls, Donald and Aumsville. Team members also have built parks in Idaho, Colorado and Maryland, and one last year in Rattenberg, Austria. The Dreamland team - all of them in their 20s and early 30s - never dreamed they would end up as professional park builders. Mostly, they say, they were pursuing a humbler dream: simply building a place to skate. That was the motive behind Burnside, the first Dreamland park, built under Portlands Burnside Bridge in 1993. It was a pro bono creation with donated materials and without actual permission from the property owner - the city of Portland. No matter
the city chose to issue its consent after the fact. The park became a kind of in-your-face résumé for the teams unique talents. What began as word of mouth among skateboard enthusiasts here spread beyond Oregons borders and began attracting skaters from other states. Suddenly, Dreamland found itself on the starting blocks of an industry poised to take off. The phone began ringing.
The first paid job was in Lincoln City, a venue soon featured on the front of Thrasher magazine, a skateboarding lifestyle publication, as the Gnarliest Park in America. Later, there was Newbergs skate park, a 30,000-square-foot extravaganza that brought a new wave of swooning. Skaters rhapsodized about the polished, marble-like concrete finish, the ripple-sided bowls perfectly engineered for rhythm, the challenge of the high walls. They grew weak-kneed just thinking about it. Meanwhile, the contours of the Burnside facility were copied for use as a backdrop to Sony PlayStations popular Tony Hawk Pro-Skater games. Eric Sentianin, managing editor of Transworld Skateboarding magazine, says Dreamlands work is nationally known because its considered high-quality. Now a kid in Kansas may not necessarily know the Dreamland name, may not know that these guys are responsible for most of the good skate parks in Oregon, he says. But hell know Newberg Skatepark.
Timing is everything
A factor in Dreamlands success was timing: It formed just as skating was beginning to lose its counterculture image and gain mainstream acceptance. Cities and park districts took a look at the Burnside facility and came looking for experts. The park boom is on, the team is committed through the end of the year with projects and top skaters are endorsing their work. But the team members say theyve yet to become financially flush. That could pass, however. Cities are showing a growing willingness to fork over big dollars for high-quality parks. Portland, for instance, is setting aside $500,000 of levy money for two skate parks, whose sites have yet to be chosen. Thats compared with the $70,000 the team will receive for its second Lincoln City park, under construction now. Kent Dahlberg, who as a teenager skated with members of Dreamland and currently serves as their spokesman and self-described accounting geek, says theres plenty of time to see how events play out. After all, the team spent years working for nothing but the pleasure of a good skate. Dahlberg remembers one of their first illicit building sites - the Tigard Cinemas building, which was under construction at the time. Skating there - even being there without permission - was illegal, of course, but worth the risk because it was well-structured for skating and had a roof. Wed meet there all the time and build ramps, Dahlberg says. Wed roll down the floor and use the stage as a transition. We had people who would watch for the police. And when the cops came, he said, We would run.
A lot of love
There were places in downtown Portland that were useful, too, Dahlberg says, but the groups wooden structures didnt last long. Whatever we built, the bums would burn it. It was super irritating because we put a lot of love into it and would only get two days usage out of it. At the time, the future Dreamland team probably wouldnt have been included on anyones most-likely-to-succeed list. Dahlberg, for one, was a high school dropout until my dad made me finish. Mark Red Scott, a Dreamland team member in his early 30s and still a skate event competitor, didnt picture making a full-time job of his passion. I figured Id just skate till I was old, like 30
and then maybe go to college. Now, he figures hell ride the Dreamland wave for a while.