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History remade: Huntsville opens new Get-A-Way Skatepark and Kids Space Playground

Published on September 13, 2023

One of the most extensive recreation projects undertaken in the City of Huntsville was unveiled at John Hunt Park on Wednesday when Get-A-Way Skatepark and Kids Space Playground opened to the public, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“These public projects have exceeded all our expectations,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “While they may dramatically differ in function, both were conceived, created and financially made possible by passionate people who believed in them and worked for them. Through these public-private partnerships, generations of young people will have world-class spaces to play.”

Ramping up recreation

The idea for a new skatepark began with local businessman, Paul Gierow, who contributed $1 million to the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville to kickstart the project. Gierow was well-known as one of the best skateboarders in Alabama during the early 1980s and could often be found at The Get-A-Way, which revolutionized skatepark design when it opened on Leeman Ferry Road in 1979.

“I’m pleased that the community and City came together to build a world-class skatepark that everyone can enjoy,” said Gierow.

“This public/private partnership between the City of Huntsville and the Community Foundation and its donors can serve as a model for how generosity can help shape the future of our community,” Community Foundation CEO Melissa Thompson added.

Others quickly got on board to support the project. The initiative received a $10,000 grant from The Skatepark Project, a national advocacy group founded by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Another industry leader, Team Pain Skate Parks, was brought in to design the 52,000-square-foot complex.

The result pays tribute to the original design while delivering modern features that are exciting to both street and Olympic-style skateboarders. Some of those features include a clover bowl, a snake run with depths ranging from three to 10 feet, a ¾ pipe, and a large street plaza.

Curt Baker served as construction project manager for Team Pain.

“The original Get-A-Way in Huntsville was one of the best skateparks in the country, a true oasis of fun,” he said. “Team Pain Skate Parks is thrilled and honored that we were able to design and build the new Get-A-Away skatepark to continue the tradition for another generation.”

Launching a new space to play

Next door but separate from the skatepark is another project with deep community roots. The new Kids Space has reopened after an extensive renovation. The original structure was built nearly 28 years ago through a volunteer effort. It served generations of children, but time took its toll on the wooden design until repairs were no longer feasible. Another issue was accessibility.

“The new Kids Space is designed for children of all ages and abilities to enjoy,” said Parks & Recreation Director James Gossett. “The open layout and special surfacing allow easy movement from one area to another, the equipment is inclusive and fun, and the fencing adds an additional layer of safety.”

The playground is a celebration of Huntsville’s past, present and future. Three themed areas offer endless opportunities for imaginations to soar from “Early Huntsville” to the “Space Race” and “Future Exploration.” Some special features include a play cabin, sky bridge, ropes course and embankment slide. A memorial made of donor bricks saved from the original site will open at a later date.

Together, the playground and skatepark cover nearly five acres at John Hunt Park at a combined construction cost of $6.8 million. The contractors were Miller & Miller, Inc., Outdoor Solutions and Schoel Engineering.

Both projects include ample parking, landscaping, shade installations, seating and water stations. In addition, the existing restroom facility received a complete renovation. City leaders are excited for the public to experience all the projects have to offer, whether that’s a slide down the rocket at Kids Space or a boardslide on the rails at Get-A-Way Skatepark.

A group of adults clap and cheer after cutting the green ribbon at the opening of a skate park and kids playground