A 14-year effort to build one of the nation’s largest skateparks on the bank of the Des Moines River near Wells Fargo Arena led to a heavily attended groundbreaking this morning that included a surprise announcement.

Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines will provide $250,000 for a work of art on which skateboarders can perform their tricks at Lauridsen Skatepark, expected to be open next summer. Organizers were still interviewing artists today.

Zach Wormhoudt, principal landscape architect for California Skateparks, which designed the Des Moines facility and hundreds of others, said he made sure a colleague didn’t steal the Des Moines project from his desk. He wanted to work this project himself. 

The project will be one of the largest skateparks in the country, and most likely will draw national tournaments. It will stretch from near Interstate Highway 235 to the Rotary Riverview Park with its giant fishing pole play structure, Wormhoudt said.
The groundbreaking was a huge moment for AMOS, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, which pushed the idea early and managed to keep it alive for more than a decade as talks evolved around three different sites. The organization, its supporters, and skateboarders were among those celebrating on the riverbank years after some initial talks at Grace United Methodist Church among local youths and others supporting the recreational draw. A community task force led fundraising in recent months. 

The Olympics will add skateboarding at Tokyo in 2020. Josh Friedberg, a professional skater and CEO of USA Skateboarding, the governing body for the sport, appeared at the Des Moines event today and praised plans for the new facility. 

“Des Moines is ahead of the curve — the Lauridsen Skatepark is a world-class facility and it definitely has the potential to attract regional, national and even international skateboarding events to the region,” Friedberg said. “Skateboarding is special. To have kids engaged in civic improvement for 14 years is unusual.”

Nix and Virginia Lauridsen, who gave $1 million to the project, attended today’s groundbreaking. So did dozens of local elected officials, business representatives — and skateboarders who have long pushed for a place to call their own. Local AARP exec Brad Anderson, who co-chaired the task force with retired Des Moines Councilwoman Christine Hensley and Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly, said the park will give people of all ages a place to play outside — and an excuse to set their cellphones and tablets aside for a while.

Connolly said the development would be the “linchpin” of the ongoing development of the Principal Riverwalk area into a recreational center. She noted the plans developed by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for river-related recreational projects, including water trails, would join the skatepark in boosting economic development and luring workers.

The regional water plan includes the proposed development of a whitewater course and zip lines not far from the two-acre skatepark site, which was donated by the city of Des Moines. Polk County will manage construction.

Backers have raised more than $3.3 million of the $3.5 million to complete the 65,000-square-foot skatepark, which is expected to draw as many as 40,000 visits a year.

Donations are still being accepted. 

Previous donors include: 

$1 million
Lauridsen Family Foundation — Nix and Virginia Lauridsen

Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Leadership Circle — Catalyst Grant

Prairie Meadows  Legacy Grant

Bankers Trust and the Ruan Foundation
Gartner Family Fund
McAninch Corp. — Doug McAninch
MidAmerican Energy Co.
Wells Fargo & Co.

Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Heart of America Group
Jill and Mark Oman
Shazam Inc.
W.T. and Edna M. Dahl Trust

Andrea and Greg Abel
Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation
EMC Insurance Cos. 
Dave and Trudy Holman Hurd Fund
ITA Group
William C. Knapp
Lohse Family Foundation
Meredith Corp.
Voss Distributing
Wellmark Foundation

American Enterprise Group Inc.
Catch Des Moines
Register Media/Gannett Foundation
Greater Des Moines Partnership
Hansen Company
Hawkeye Hotels
Mike and Debbie Hubbell
Hubbell Realty Co.
Iowa State Bank
John and Jan Mechem
Polk County Board of Supervisors
Sehgal Foundation
Susan and Carl Voss
West Bank Foundation
Voya Financial

Susan and Jake Christensen
Dickey and Campbell Law Firm PLC
Eychaner Properties Inc.
Farm Bureau Financial Services
Jann Freed and John Fisher
Friends of Des Moines Parks
Kurt and Cara Heiden
Janice Hill
Nelson Construction & Development
Lindsey and Tim Rypma
Robert Sand
Jaey and Brenda Sedlacek Family Charitable Trust in honor of Aidan and Bode Conlan
Norm and Danielle Sterzenbach
Storey-Kenworthy Foundation for Giving
Subsect Skateshop
Tony Hawk Foundation
Union Pacific
United Way of Central Iowa
Woodward Brenton Found