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Skate park officially opens to fanfare

At over 50,000 square feet, facility the second-largest in Canada

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The dreams of expanding Whistler's skate park have been on the minds of many for years.

At times, those hopes burned less brightly. They took on new fervour, however, after Michael Klinkhamer started organizing fundraisers to show potential stakeholders the local skateboard community was serious. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) jumped on board in 2014, and on June 7, the rejuvenation and expansion was officially unveiled in Whistler Village.

"It's amazing. I'm just stoked that everybody came together and the municipality was so cooperative about helping us out to get it going," Klinkhamer said.

The park has been open to boarders since May 26, and Klinkhamer gives it his stamp of approval. At over 50,000 square feet, it is now the second-largest in Canada, trailing only a facility in Calgary.

"It's so fast. It's so smooth. I've been skating that (older) park for a long time and it's gotten worn out a bit," he said. "I still like it a lot, but this one's just so much faster. And it really links all the parks together too like a lot of people are saying, so it's pretty sick.

"I like everything."

Whistler Skateboad Association president Lenny Rubenovich moved to the area around the turn of the millennium and was disheartened by the skate facilities in Whistler at the time. He tried to jumpstart some talks, but eventually found himself discouraged until Klinkhamer's boost of enthusiasm.

"It truly touches my heart. It's been a long time working on this project with many people involved. (It took) many organizations and many years (for this)to come to fruition. It's been an idea, it's gone to sleep, it's woken up. I put it to rest. Other people brought it back to life, woke me up and drove more spirit into it," he said. "It was really nice when one individual (Klinkhamer) decided to take action and stand up for what he believed in. His heart led him to take initiative.

"That inspired me and planted a seed in me to plant more seeds inside of other people and raise more funds and raise more awareness and work with the municipality."

Though Rubenovitch said there were bumps along the way, he believes that the condition of the original 1990s skate park would eventually result in a vast improvement.

"This area was on its way to being neglected and a facility that isn't for the long form. It was built out of wood and that doesn't work for an outdoor skate park," he said. "I believe it was destined to be when it wasn't done right (originally)."

The project was funded with $807,000 from the Province of British Columbia's Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) and a $100,000 gift from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden acknowledged criticism from some corners about the project cost, but noted the funding sources. The RMI program is designed to draw tourism and visitors, and with it being used to create Canada's second-largest park, she anticipates boarders from Vancouver and beyond will bring their wheels — and dollars — here. Some of them may be pretty darn talented, too, with the park being designed to attract some high-level events to the resort.

"There are people from Vancouver who specifically came up today to try out this facility," she said.

The collaborative process, at times, was hairy for the RMOW and designer Jim Barnum of Spectrum Skateparks. Wilhelm-Morden acknowledged there were a couple of occasions where changes needed to be made based on the feedback, but that conscientiousness ultimately resulted in a better design.

"Sometimes it looked like we had made a decision and then we had to go back and rethink it and relook at it, so it was a little bit frustrating sometimes, especially for the staff, but we persevered and I think we have a fantastic facility as a result," she said.

While several parties acknowledged, at times, it would be hard to incorporate all the ideas and make everyone happy, second-year Whistlerite Michael Caldwell praised the facility, particularly the pole jam, flat rail and banks.

"They've nailed it on the head, to be honest," he said. "There's lots of features for everyone, big and small. They've done well."

Meanwhile, one boarder named Justin had a more mixed review, enjoying some features while feeling others were repeated a little too often.

"I like that it's smooth. That's rad," he said. "I like that there are flat banked trannies instead of all just being quarter pipe... (but) there are too many quarter pipes. There are already enough."

He also noted that some original plans included some stairs and he was disappointed they were cut from the final park.

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