It can be hard to claim your turn to drop into a busy skatepark, Terje LaMont acknowledged as skaters around him launched in rapid succession into the brand new half-pipe at the Utah State Fairpark.
But it helps to have one of the biggest names in skateboarding clear your path.
“Just follow me,” Tony Hawk told LaMont on Tuesday afternoon as the 7-year-old struggled to seize his moment in the crowd at the grand opening of the Vans-Utah Sports Commission Skatepark. Hawk glided into one of the bowls and bobbed modestly over the paved volcano before popping out on the other side.
Whenever Tony Hawk skates, no matter how simple the move, he leaves a brief, reverent calm behind him — and that was LaMont’s cue. A banner of blond hair waved behind LaMont’s helmet as he sailed up and down the smooth concrete. After ramping out onto a deck, LaMont gave his gasping verdict on the Olympic-caliber skatepark:
The new skatepark will host the Pro Tour World Championships on Friday and Saturday. The Vans Park Series skateboarding tour will then donate the skatepark, built in partnership with the commission, as a gift to the community to nurture the sport around the world ahead of its debut in the 2020 Olympics.
The new park — and the chance to skate alongside well-known pros like CJ Collins and Autumn Tust — fired up local skaters, who said the new venue could help raise the profile of skateboarding in Utah, where winter sports instead have long reigned supreme.
“I met Tony Hawk, dude!” said a jubilant Dalessandro Perez, a 16-year-old skater from Taylorsville. “In Utah, too! Out of all places. All this talent here in this one small place is insane. You’d never think anything like this would come to Utah when it comes to skateboarding.”
Some hoped events linked to the new skatepark, along with the developing Woodward action sports complex in Park City, would allow Utah’s skateboarding scene to tap into the energy around outdoor sports.
"This is just a huge hub for action sports,“ said Noelle Sanders, who works at the Milosport gear shop in Millcreek. "The amount of athletes that come to Salt Lake City is just going to continue to grow.”
The new skatepark will allow for more competitive training, said 10-year-old Elle Warne, a rising Utah athlete who has been entering regional contests since she was seven.
“This is really challenging,” she said after emerging from the bowl to cheers from local skateboarders more than twice her age.
Having such a high-quality venue “helps legitimize it, so skateboarding is not a complete crazy thing,” said Adam Sitzmann, a medical resident at the University of Utah, who is entering Salt Lake City’s amateur contest in mid-September.
The brand Vans, which opened in 1966 as the Van Doren Rubber Company, began by making shoes popular with skateboarders. The company has expanded from sports footwear to apparel and sponsoring and creating sporting events, and launched the Vans Park Series in 2016.
The series spans five countries over a five-month season and features four global qualifiers for men and women skaters. It culminates this year in Salt Lake City with the naming of men’s and women’s world champions of park terrain skateboarding. The skateboarding elite will be vying for a total series purse in excess of $700,000.
The Pro Tour is being used as a blueprint by the International Olympic Committee for Tokyo 2020, where athletes will compete in park terrain and street skating for the first time, Vans said in a news release.
This week’s competition in Salt Lake City offers viewers a chance to see some of the biggest names in skating, Vans said, noting Hawk will provide live commentary for a global webcast. The live stream will begin at vansparkseries.com at noon on Saturday. The two-day tour is free and open to the public.
Vans also donated parks this year in Montréal and Paris, and previously donated parks in Malmö, Sweden and São Paulo, Brazil. Ongoing programming and maintenance are provided by partnerships with cities, skate shops, sponsors and Vans, the company said.