“Instead of running them off, we’re bringing them in.”
This is a message the city of Boise might like to tell the late Glenn Rhodes, who, after hearing of business owners chasing Boise youth from its downtown concrete spaces, worked tirelessly for years to create a multiple use skate park in a previously undesirable part of town.
Wanting the youth to have a place of their own, the former Ada County highway commissioner began laboring with his own two hands on a 1.28-acre area, located at the 15th and 16th street underpass.
In 1995, the park was appropriately named after Rhodes, who convinced scores of people and organizations to get more involved in the upgrading of Boise youth’s recreational potential, raised tens of thousands of dollars toward the cause, and continuously championed the need for a skate park.
Unfortunately, the area became more liability than asset when the declining park became a magnet for the homeless.
However, for the desert oasis town that turned a hard-to-access river into a centerpiece, and built an enviable, beautiful building on a cringe-inducing site known as “The Hole,” the prospect of turning a problem into a citywide source of pride was a welcome challenge.
Idaho’s capital city wouldn’t allow Glenn Rhodes’ dream to fade. The Boise Skateboard Association partnered with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and the City, and in early August, 2016, due to an immense amount of local passion and effort, the Rhodes Skate Park was reborn into what Element Brand founder Johnny Schillereff called “something out of a video game—one of those things that’s too good to be true”.
Receiving worldwide attention, Rhodes caught the eye of the ESPN-owned X Games, and was selected as the location for 2017’s only qualifier on June 10.
“They saw footage of the grand opening, viewed the facilities and thought it was a fit,” said Boise Skate Association’s Josh Davis. “We certainly anticipated the possibility. It makes us feel good that we’ve accomplished something pretty amazing.”
“It’s neat, in a year, just to see what’s happened,” said Prestige Skateboards co-owner Paul Whitworth. “We’ve had so many pro skateboard teams come to town.”
Often constructing site-specific, semi-permanent facilities for events, X Games instead opted to use an existing facility and involve the local skate community, wisely ensuring long-lasting friendship towards the brand.
ESPN found the City of Trees and its skate park to be unique.
“It’s under the underpass, how great could it be, right?” said sports sales convention manager for the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau, Taylor Williamson. “But they were super impressed with Rhodes, with downtown, with the breweries. These people have experienced a massive scale of excellence: Barcelona, L.A., Austin, Minneapolis. To hear them excited about Boise on a Tuesday night was awesome.”
“The city of Boise is a perfect fit for an X Games Qualifier,” said ESPN Sports and Competition Associate Director, Brian Kerr. “You have a thriving community that has invested in youth action sports with the opening of the world class Rhodes Skate Park. Couple that with the innovative culture of skateboarding and BMX, and you have exactly what the X Games are all about.”
“We’ve been kind of isolated,” Davis said. “There’s a good and unique Boise skateboard scene. Rhodes gave us the platform to speak to a larger audience about what we have. We can use this to bolster the positive aspects of skateboarding, continue to shape an impression that this is an activity to get kids out, engaged, learning, and pushing themselves. To us, that means the ability to build more facilities in neighborhood parks, where kids can go to get some exercise and be active.”
Prestige’s Whitworth offered his take on the sport and the event: “Skateboarding is different. It’s approachable. We’ll be sharing the park with people we’d see on TV—it’s going to be really neat energy. X Games is going to bring in a lot of people, and get even more people interested in skateboarding.”
X Games recently released a list of the qualifier’s top-20 competitors that included Alex Sorgente, Ben Hatchell, Clay Kreiner, Allysha Le, Amelia Brodka, Hanna Zanzi, Kevin Peraza, Nick Bruce, and Larry Edgar.
“This is one of those signature events that will be great for the City. It will take us to the next level,” Williamson said.
“All the big name skateboarders will be there,” added Whitworth. “It should be rad.”