A planned skate park near downtown Pensacola is one step closer to reality after the Kugelman Family Foundation on Wednesday announced a $250,000 donation to the project.
The Blake Doyle Community Park — the brainchild of Pensacola realtor Jon Shell and his Upward Intuition group — would occupy a full city block within the 18-acre Hollice T. Williams Park under the elevated portion of Interstate 110. In addition to the skate park, the project would incorporate the “From the Ground Up” community garden that’s already onsite and add walking paths, benches, exercises stations, and other amenities. All told, the project is expected to cost around $2.5 million, much of which Shell is raising from philanthropic organizations and other nongovernmental sources.
The project is named for Shell’s childhood friend and fellow skateboarder Blake Doyle, who was struck and killed by a train in 2015.
Shell’s vision has been embraced by city and county officials as well as a number of philanthropists throughout the community. Much of the design and planning work for the park has been completed, though due to the piecemeal funding structure, construction of the skatepark will likely move forward in phases beginning in 2018. Once completed, the City of Pensacola would assume responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the park.
“We’re trying to determine what the best phase one is,” Shell said Wednesday. “We’re going to continue working on other grants, including some that we’re actively working on.”
Among those grants is a submission to the Tony Hawk Foundation, due on January 24.
“I’ve been talking with them, and the guy I talked to over there, he told me he showed our design to Tony Hawk, and that if we pull this off we’re going to have easily one of the best, if not the best, skateparks in the Southeast,” Shell said.
The Kugelman donation is specifically earmarked for an amphitheater which will bear the family’s name. It’s the first major donation specifically earmarked for part of the project’s construction phase. Shell says the amphitheater will serve as a performance and event space.
The foundation previously gave Upward Intuition $1,000 to fund a youth skate camp and contributed $5,000 toward the project’s design and development costs.
Shell said he’s working closely with city and county officials to take advantages of some grants which only government agencies can apply for. In October, the U.S. Treasury Department approved 10 projects seeking RESTORE funding, including a plan to develop Hollice T. Williams Park as a linear urban greenway.
Shell said a number of other naming opportunities at the skate park are still available for donors, including a stage, a walking/jogging path around the park, and numerous bowls and other features within the skate park itself. Upward Intuition is currently working to raise $50,000 for the “Jonah Bowl,” named for Jonah Phillips, a young skateboarder who was killed in a tragic accident in 2016.