In 1994, Rhodes Park opened with a portion of its 1.28 acres devoted to skateboarding. The multi-use park was ideal for a skatepark: Covered by two I-84 overpasses, it is well-protected from the elements and is lit at night. Skaters slowly absorbed the rest of the concrete area, making the skatepark bigger.
"Skateboarders just started bringing things over there like ramps and refrigerators, whatever was in the alley down the way," said Paul Whitworth, co-owner of Prestige Skateshop in downtown Boise.
Today, Rhodes Park consists of some rusting metal ramps, a rail, a few dumpers, cracks in the concrete and two porta-potties. But Whitworth and his business partner, Greg Goulet, have a vision for something better. Eight years ago, they began work on giving the park a facelift. They had meetings with the city; asked Seattle-based skatepark design firm Grindline to draw up concepts; and the pair held bake sales and skate contests to raise money for improvements.
"It was fun and we learned a lot, but it was slow going," Goulet said.
Eventually, the Boise Skateboard Association, of which Goulet and Whitworth are both members, started conversations with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation about their dreams of a modern skate park.
When the Albertson Foundation earlier this month announced it would donate $1.25 million to help overhaul Rhodes Park, Goulet said he "actually teared up."
"What a Christmas present," Whitworth added.
It will be up to the foundation to hire a skatepark design company and construct the park before turning it over to the city. Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said the city will spend $300,000 to landscape the area.
"With more than $1 million, they have the latitude to create a world-class design," Holloway told Boise Weekly, adding that he hopes ground will break by the spring with work on the park finished in the summer of 2015.
Rhodes Park has been newsworthy for other reasons this past year, especially after the Oct. 28 homicide of homeless man Rusty Bitton, which happened across the street from the park. During the summer, conflicts between Boise police and the homeless community in the area were frequent.
Holloway said the improvements to the skatepark could help "re-energize" the neighborhood, which the Albertson Foundation is calling an extension of the Linen District.
"Parks in general are a backbone of revitalizing any neighborhood," Holloway said. "If designed appropriately, it will create an area that will be an attraction, where families will be able to gather. We think it's giving the whole area back to the families and the children that enjoy that skatepark."