This story first appeared in print in the September 2018 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Jessy Brown watches as Revelstoke’s long-awaited skatepark takes form at Kovach Park. The morning is warm and heating up by the minute, although wildfire smoke obscures any hint of blue skies and surrounding mountains.
Brown, dressed in her bright orange construction clothes, stands near a concrete truck — the second one this morning. Her job is to operate the pump, sending concrete through a hose over to where the rest of the crew is working.
This type of concrete sprayed at high velocity is called shotcrete. It’s reinforced with steel and smoothed to create the perfect finish, ideal for a skateboard bowl. The crew has been doing this most mornings recently and Brown says the teamwork is a beautiful thing. “When we do the building work, we’re all doing our individual tasks,” she says. “But when it comes to concreting, it’s a big team effort. Everyone has their spot and it’s really awesome.”
Brown is based in Rossland and it’s her first season with New Line Skateparks. She’s stoked on how it’s going. “I grew up skateboarding their parks,” she says. “It’s a dream come true to be part of the magic.”
It seems like the main prerequisite to become a skateboard park construction worker is a passion for skateboarding. Everything else can be learned on the job. And when the crew gets to enjoy the finished product, you can be sure the quality control is high. “I grew up building skateparks,” says senior site manager Jesse Hale who has been skating for close to 30 years. “We didn’t have anything back in the day so we had to build it.”
While Hale didn’t anticipate a life in construction, he has been with New Line since the start in 2001. His friend Kyle Dion, New Line’s president, was one of the company’s founders. After high school, Dion went on a trip to Australia and got involved with building skateboard parks there. He came back inspired and New Line began.
The construction crew becomes family. Not only do they live and work together (the company has put them up in three houses here), they generally play and skate together. Revelstoke’s crew of nine are aged from 21 to 44 and it’s a lifestyle that suits the young and restless and unencumbered.
“You don’t see many people with kids doing this job,” Ian Butler says. He’s been with the company for about seven years. Based in Nelson, he came onboard when New Line built a skatepark there. “I was only going to do it for a bit,” he says. “But I love the job so much I can’t stop.”
Earlier this year the crew built in Ontario, Saskatchewan and then Alberta. It’s clearly one of the best and worst aspects of the job — getting to see places they otherwise wouldn’t but also being away from home for long periods. Hale has kids and tries to get back for one week of every three. Due to his seniority his gig is more year-round while Butler and Brown spend their winters in the mountains.
To date, New Line has completed over 250 projects, including some internationally. They recently created an American branch and are building a skatepark in Florida, while they also have about six active projects in Canada.
“It is just booming,” Butler said. “Every town now wants a skatepark. It’s the most used outdoor space and the lowest cost for a parent to get their kids into the sport.”
For the crew, they see it not only as a job but a purpose. “I think it’s probably one of the best jobs in the world,” Hale says. “Building gives back to something that has given me so much enjoyment.”
And for Revelstoke, the near decade-long wait for this project to be realized is a huge accomplishment. “I was pumped to finally see ground break here in Revelstoke,” Butler says. “Year after year people would say Revelstoke is going down, and then it didn’t. It always seemed a big pipe dream, so seeing it come into fruition is pretty sweet.”