LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Skateboarding parks are giving new life to a 60-year-old phenolic fiber laminate, although a lower priced alternative is deteriorating in outdoor environments. "We are taking a big chunk of market share," Joel Klippert said in a telephone interview. "Our product is considered the top surface." Klippert is sales marketing director with Rainier Richlite Co. in Tacoma, Wash.
The original composite product, now called Skatelite Pro, costs $145 per sheet, Klippert said. The firm created a regular Skatelite at $95 per sheet to reach the cost-conscious market. Skatelite Pro contains 50 percent more resin, is stronger and more durable and absorbs less water than regular Skatelite, Klippert said.
Skateboard-park builders face a conundrum.
"A lot of the builders are saying Skatelite is not lasting as long as they want it to, and they are looking for better surfaces," said Heidi Lemmon, founder and director of the Skate Park Association of the USA in Santa Monica, Calif. She was interviewed at the Action Sports Retailer trade show, held Feb. 5-7 in Long Beach.
Lemmon said about 600 skate parks exist in the United States, about twice as many as one year ago.
Skate-park builder Mel Durand in Athens, Ohio, wants a durable, weatherproof sheet with enough grip for wheels to stick, but enough give for a falling skater to slide. It should cost $75-$100, he said.
"Anything over that, and it is [more] cost effective for the city to put in a concrete park," he said.
Durand uses 300-500 sheets per year. Currently his business, Suburban Rails in Athens, Ohio, pays about $80 per sheet and attaches Skatelite to two layers of plywood.
"Before Skatelite there was Masonite [wood-composite sheet], and that deteriorated quickly," Durand said. "Now, Skatelite is holding moisture and deteriorating after a couple of years."
Durand said a wood park may cost $50,000-$100,000 and a concrete park $150,000-$200,000. He estimates the number of parks will double in the next two years, to about 1,200.
Major skate-park developers are using the less-expensive Skatelite in indoor settings, according to Klippert.
"It should last seven to 10 years on a well-built base," he said.
On the higher-priced sheets, youngsters can ride in the rain and slide easily so they don't get hurt, he said.
Skatelite Pro comes in black, natural and brown. The regular panel comes only in brown.