John Shea grew up skating in the Metroplex. He then moved to Southern California in the late 90s and early 2000s, where the fast-paced lifestyle and lack of connection with the locals didn’t appeal to him.
Shea made his return to Fort Worth, and, 16 years later, he is a part of the construction of a new skate park in the South Side.
“This side of town was cool, but it was kind of a ghost town,” Shea said. “You know, 15 or 16 years ago, there’s not a lot going on here, but I thought, ‘This could be great.’ I lived in Long Beach so I thought this had that feel.”
Shea hosted Open Streets events where skaters gathered and hung out, played music and skated. He eventually met Mike Brennan at Near Southside Inc., and things got moving.
Shea, community members, city officials and neighborhood youth gathered at a Near Southside Inc. and Dickies-hosted event to celebrate the beginning of the construction phase of a new skate plaza and park on Jan. 12.
The Dickies Skate Plaza and Fire Station Park, 1616 Hemphill St., will be built in 2022 and was made possible by a partnership between Fort Worth-based workwear company Dickies, the Fort Worth Park & Recreation department, community advocates and Magnolia Skate Shop’s owners.
The VF Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Dickies’ parent company, VF Corp., donated $300,000 for the construction of the plaza and park.
“It’s just community engagement and getting the skaters out,” said Richard Riccetti, the director of licensing at Dickies.
“Here’s the thing: If you look at all the skate parks around, they’re all in the ‘burbs. There is no central location for skating,” he said.
“We’ve been here 100 years. This is our neighborhood. It’s really just giving back,” Riccetti added.
Fire Station Park will feature a market plaza, dog park and a 5,000-square-foot all-wheel track. An additional 15,000 square-feet will be dedicated to the skate plaza with elements for skaters of all expertise levels.
“We have a huge skate community here in the neighborhood and they have been super active in the public process letting us know what they’re looking for, what they need space for and what would be helpful for them and the community,” said Near Southside Inc. Events and Projects Manager Natalie Chapa.
Magnolia Skate Shop co-owner Coyt Caffey said the skate shop intended to excite the community when it hit the scene in 2018. “Now that we have that as a platform, I think people took the skate scene more seriously directly in this area and maybe the city.”
Caffey grew up south of Fort Worth in Joshua, but he and a few buddies would travel to Fort Worth to skate because of its diverse culture.
“An inner city skate park will make a big difference,” Caffey said.
For skaters like Shea, the skate park was a years-long effort. From gatherings in the Fire Station Community Center to meetings with Dickies officials, Shea and Magnolia Skate Shop’s owners rode through the process the entire way.
“Skateboarding has to be probably the most important thing in my life. It keeps everything going in a positive direction,” Shea said. “For the youth, this place will just be here, and who knows what direction it’ll take.”
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.