By Chris Lehmkuhl
A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Aug. 12 about 4:15 p.m. in Hart Park … another stepping stone in a path more than a decade in the making.
“We want a skate park, but it will take years to build and lots of money.”
These words were first uttered in 2003 from McKinley Elementary student Jack Doyle, who was a devoted inline skater. Jack was a founding member of Tosa Skateboarders United (TSU) and had a clear vision. He envisioned his posse riding bowls, hopping rails and hanging out hassle-free just doing what they loved to do.
So, with skater-mom Mary Pruitt-Martinez leading the way, TSU became a formal nonprofit organization, and its objective to build a skate park in its hometown was set in motion.On Oct. 25, 2006, Jack Martin Doyle passed on, leaving a void at TSU and in the community. Inspired and dedicated to his mission, Jack’s family and friends would carry his passion forward to a much more logical and meaningful conclusion than was the end of his short life.
“We want a skate park, but it will take years to build and lots of money.” – Jack Doyle
Over the next year, TSU worked with the city of Wauwatosa to add a skate park concept and design that would later be incorporated into the Hart Park Master Redevelopment Plan.
With the skate park site confirmed in the master plan, the thought process was that construction would soon follow. But that was not the case as the skate park was never properly or officially funded.
Frustrated by the lack of concrete progress and looking to keep their spirited, young skater’s dream alive, Mike and Judy Doyle decided to make their son’s mission their own. Fundraising for TSU and the skate park would become a way of life for the Doyles.
The four-year span between 2009-2012 was a rough stretch for the economy and for fundraising. The dollars raised for TSU and the building of the skate park fell consistently short of goals and expectations to the extent that the dream had all but disappeared.
“Those times were a constant struggle, morale was low, we weren’t seeing enough progress,” Judy Doyle recalled.
Something needed to be injected into the organization to restore the spirit of its volunteer soldiers. So in 2013, the Doyles introduced the Jack Doyle Memorial Challenge Grant.
“We had money set aside for Jack’s college fund, so we decided to pledge that money to the skate park,” his mom said.
The Doyles pledged $80,000 with the cave- at that the city of Wauwatosa and TSU would both match that amount.
With a firm commitment from the three parties of a total of $240,000, the project had traction once again.
Recently, the city of Wauwatosa and an anonymous donor bridged the financial gap of construction to bring the total financial commitment to just under $500,000. This is enough money to fund the first phase of the park. But, in reality, this is only about 50 percent of the original plan that called for a 16,000-square-foot park.
“We didn’t just get a skate park, we got the skate park we wanted,” said Alderman Jeff Roznowski triumphantly at a recent city council meeting. However, that is arguably not yet the case.
There is ample room for an addition to the first phase of the skate park, and more fundraising could get it done. The city approved approximately 16,000 square feet of real estate for the park. Yet according to the city’s renderings, approximately 8,000 square feet is being used with the current design.
“With all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this project from so many dedicated individuals, we will definitely find a way to finish it,” said Mark Zitzer, owner the aptly named Phase II Skateshop at 7436 W. State St. in Wauwatosa.
The skate park, a custom, hybrid cement park designed by former pro skater Kanten Russell, is scheduled to open on Oct. 25 to honor the ninth anniversary of Jack’s passing. The first phase of the park is equipped with a full “backyard” bowl, hand rails, 1⁄4 and 1⁄2 pipes with separate three- and five-step sets.
The design keeps in mind that skateboarders will share the facility with in-line skaters and BMX-style bikers.
“With all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this project from so many dedicated individuals, we will definitely find a way to finish it – Mark Zitzer, Owner, Phase II Skateboarding
The skate park does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Milwaukee County Parks System nor the Wauwatosa Recreation Department. It will operate outside of “Parks and Rec” and under Wauwatosa Playground Rules governance. As such, the park will be open for use from “dawn to dusk.”
TSU and the city are developing strate- gies to host events and competitions. That aspect of the facility is in the investigative stages. Because the skate park operates under playground rules, it adds a bit of a “Mc”twist, regarding hosting events on public grounds.
When asked how she thought her son, Jack, would feel about the Tosa Skate Park, Judy Doyle said, “I think we’re all confident that Jack would give it his stamp of approval.” tosaskate.org