Urgent support needed for indoor skateparks to prevent mass closures

Skateboard England have issued an urgent call for central Government to work with local authorities to speed up the release of business support grants and encourage landlords to recognize the impact of COVID-19 and work more flexibly with skateboard and BMX parks to ensure their survival.

There are approximately 75 indoor skateboard and BMX parks in the UK delivering sport and physical activity opportunities to over 1 million children and teenagers a week through skateboarding, BMX and scooting. The vast majority are charities, community led organisations and not-for-profit businesses, working to very tight budgets and being reliant on daily entry fees and grant funding to operate. The Coronavirus lockdown has meant that these parks are currently receiving no income.

Whilst the grant support announced by Government is a hugely welcome lifeline, it is currently taking too long for those grants to be received by the skateparks from local authorities. Anecdotally, one skatepark operator was told yesterday that over 3,000 applications had been received by their local authority and that they could only process 170 a week. This could mean that by the time the grant is approved and received, that skatepark and many other businesses in that area will not have survived and will have already closed.

Many of these skateboard and BMX parks are involved in providing vital social impact, mental health programmes and education services to vulnerable, high risk children from different parts of the community. They also keep 1,000’s of children active, helping to reduce child obesity. Without immediate financial support, many skateparks could have to close permanently within the next 3 to 4 weeks.

For example, in addition to providing skateboarding, BMX and scooting opportunities, OnBoard in Sheffield runs alternative provision for vulnerable children from across the city as well as several community projects which positively impact hundreds of people a week.

Owner, Amy Cooper said, “I’ll be honest the extremely sad part of this is, as yet we’ve had no financial support or help from the city council at all. We are struggling now and will be struggling to re-open in the future with our mounting debt. We’ve not heard anything in regard to the leisure grant even though I phone everyday. I’ve put in a funding bid to ‘Emergency Covid Fund’ to support the running costs of our building but not heard anything yet either.

This experience is mirrored across the country. Lucy Adams, Chair of Skateboard England, said: “Many skateparks are faced with the harsh reality of no income for a long period and without immediate financial support, face closure. This would be devastating to their local communities. Many skateparks are working with vulnerable children as alternative education centres and running community projects, such as providing food to disadvantaged families and running initiatives to reduce food waste.

“We know from our discussions with skatepark operators that the grants need to be released from local authorities much quicker and landlords need to be more understanding, otherwise we face wholescale closures of skateparks across the country. This is why we need crucial action and support from Government at this time.

”The call has also been backed by British Cycling. Andy Farr, British Cycling’s Head of Business Planning & Transformation, said: “The Government support and sector-specific support from Sport England is hugely appreciated and absolutely essential to the survival of a large number of our facility providers, including skateboard and BMX park operators. However, short-term cashflow is causing significant problems across the sector and we would urge local authorities and landlords to work with us and our operating partners to ensure we can sustain their businesses and be in a position to support all of the young people who benefit from these parks, once we are able to resume activity.”

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