Community members gather at the Little Theatre to discuss the city’s skateboard park Wednesday evening.

A handful of community members turned out for a public forum discussing the possible update and relocation of the city’s skateboard park Wednesday evening at WLW Auditorium’s Little Theatre.

The city has been discussing upgrades to the park, currently located at Santa Fe Park, for more than two years. The skate park received an anonymous $250,000 donation in 2021 earmarked for improvements and updates, after local teen Maddox Gutierrez petitioned the city to make improvements to the park. City manager Trey Cocking said the city looked at renderings from American Ramp Company last year, as well as pricing quotes for construction. Costs ranged between $250,000 - $500,000 for the work.

But, Cocking says BNSF threw a wrench in the plans. The city leases the land where the Lorenzo Delgado Sports Complex — formerly the Southwest Santa Fe Park — is located.

“The city does not own that tract of land,” he said. “That tract of land was originally owned by the Santa Fe Railroad.”

The city has a longterm lease through 2060, provided the park is used for ballpark recreation activities. Las Casitas Park, located just down the road on South Avenue, is also on leased land.

Cocking spoke to BNSF about amending the lease to include verbiage about a skatepark, but the railroad would not do so without updating to its current specifications. That included a $3,500 annual fee — more than the $1 the city pays each year now — and a year-to-year lease consideration. That, Cocking said, meant that the city could be in danger of making investments on land that could be taken away by BNSF at any time.

The city brought American Ramp Company back to Emporia to look at possible locations. That’s when discussions arose for moving the skatepark facilities to Whittier Park.

Located at Whittier Street and E. Ninth Avenue, Whittier Park covers 13 acres and features two lighted softball fields and a T-ball complex. While it’s heavily used for youth activities, it has not seen a lot of investment.

Lavat Roberson and Dustin McDonald, who were both part of the group of local skateboarders consulted during the Santa Fe Skateboard Park’s design process, attended Wednesday’s meeting. Both felt Whittier Park would make a great spot for the skatepark, provided the city listened closely to the needs of the skating community.

“I’d really like to see everything spread out and set up so people aren’t running into each other,” Roberson said. “It needs to be a safe place for people to learn and come and have fun.”

“Mainly, we want to make sure of the dimensions and spacing, and that it’s concrete,” McDonald added. “We’re just making sure they get it right this time, and that it’s accessible for people to skate.”

Roberson and McDonald both said if Whittier Park had been offered as an option 20 years ago, local skaters would have jumped on that immediately due to its proximity to the highway.

Other community members expressed concerns about preserving the history of the Lorenzo Delgado Sports Complex. David Rodriguez said it was important to consider the history of the local Latino community when looking at the future of that park. He, and others, expressed a desire to see the park reverted back to ball diamonds if the skatepark was moved.

Cocking said some discussions regarding that possibility have been had over the last few weeks.

He stressed that these talks are in a very early stage right now, though Emporia City Commissioners would like to see movement quickly.

Earlier in the day, Cocking had shared results of a recent survey over current skateboard park offerings and wants with commissioners, which showed that 36% of 61 respondents have never visited the current park, while 18% have visited more than 10 times. The rest of the respondents fell somewhere in the middle.

Respondents want to see more features, such as different types of ramps, bowls, free skate areas, and landscaping. They also asked for better lighting and security features, such as cameras.

Other responses asked for vending machines and concessions, sand volleyball courts, a splashpad and bike trails. The full survey results can be found online at

Those results were also shared at the public forum.

(1) comment


How about let’s prioritize our needs over our wants with water infrastructure that works and streets that don’t feel like traveling on a BMX trail.

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