Have Shovel, Will Skate!
The motley crew, inspired by word-of-mouth that
quickly spread through the skateboarding community, gathered and removed chunks
of concrete and gravel from the mini lipslide gulley, a four-foot deep concrete
pool. The bowls had been filled in and covered with cement when street-style
skating became popular, but the business didn't survive much longer, and the
lot was sold in 1996. For a few hours, it was a skater's paradise.
"We dug that thing out in 8 hours," says
Mike Schmidt, who grew up skating the park.
"Eventually our crew got so big that we had
one person on one side, one person in the bowl, both digging. It was super
camaraderie and teamwork," says Jesse Geboy, another former Turf
The police, upon hearing of the goings-on at the
site (It's speculated this was due to a report on the 10:00 WITI-TV Channel 6
News), showed up and put a halt to the operation.
"I think it started out with the main goal of
just to skate it one more time," Schmidt explains. Now, that goal has
broadened. The skaters want their park back. Having received an
enthusiastic response from current and former skaters as well as locals and
people worldwide who have never even set foot on the property, it might just
According to John Gonzales, a former Turf
frequenter and creator of the Milwaukee Skateboard Association (an organization
designed to help resurrect the park), the Turf's indoor/outdoor park, made
possible by "retractable walls, similar to garage doors, built around
the skating area," allowed the Turf to host skateboarders
year-round. The five bowls, all of differing sizes, depths, and terrains,
"were so various that if you could ride the Turf, you could ride
anywhere," says Jerome Urbaniak, an employee from 1988 to 1991 at the pro
shop housed on the property (which sold skateboard-related gear).
The Turf had great draw for big-name skaters from
all over the country.
"It was the Mecca to come to," says
Urbaniak. "You had parks in California at the time, but the big one
that was there—that all the pros ride—was upland, and that got dozed, and all
that was really left that was a good, good pro park was the Turf. Nation-wide. It
was the place, period."
Members of the Bones Brigade (the Powell Peralta
skateboard company team that included legends such as Tony Hawk, Steve
Caballero, Lance Mountain, and Mike Vallely), the Santa Cruz team (a group that
included Jason Jesse, Steve Alba, Christian Hosoi, Natas Kaupas, Duane Peters,
Tony Alva, Ray Barbee, and Chris Miller), and numerous other skateboard royalty
were known to travel to the park.
"If the Turf were to come back again, it
would be forever, because skateboarding is now far more accepted,"
Urbaniak says. "The park would generate revenue. It would bring
people to the city of Milwaukee, with skateboarding being as popular as it is
today.” He adds, “There are guys out there with five million dollar shoe
contracts for skateboarding. You've got Fuel TV (a channel devoted to
skateboarding, BMX bikes, surfing, and the like); Tony Hawk making appearances
on children's television shows ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ and ‘Yo Gabba
Gabba’. It just has such a wide public acceptance now as compared to when I was
growing up in the early- to mid- '90s.”
Gonzales, who has worked on a skateboard camp for
kids four years in a row, says, "With skateboarding, when another guy and
I are both learning a new trick, I want to push him so he does a better
job. With any other sport, I'd want to beat him. If he skates better
than I do, I'm glad because I'm going to watch him and learn from him and do it
just like him."
According to Emlynn Grisar, WisDOT Southeast
Region Communications Manager, in a letter posted on the "Save the
Turf" website, “The land the former skatepark was located upon was
purchased to accommodate a new westbound I 894 off-ramp to northbound Loomis Road.
It will be used as a staging area during the important Mitchell Interchange
core reconstruction contract, slated to begin this fall. Following the
construction project’s completion, WisDOT will turn the excess land over to the
city of Greenfield, per a memorandum of understanding. The final disposition of
the parcel will be decided by the city at that time.”
For more information visit www.savetheturf.com