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Cutting the ribbon and shredding the skate course

Venice Beach Skate Park, decades in the making, opens to acclaim from skaters and city officials. 'It looks like anarchy but almost looks choreographed,' a passerby says of the opening-day action.

October 04, 2009|Ruben Vives

Young and not so young, scores of skateboarders and their supporters cheered the opening of the long-awaited Venice Beach Skate Park on Saturday.

"Let's cut the ribbon and let's go skate," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice.

"It's a great day," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "People from all over Southern California and the world come to Venice to get a slice of this unique community. Now, skateboarders from all over Southern California and the world will come here."

Proponents have been lobbying for the park for a decade -- ever since the city began renovating Venice Beach in 1999.

With input from local skateboarders and professionals, designers created one of the most challenging arenas around, according to Rosendahl's office.

Set on the beach, the 16,000-square-foot park near Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk offers a splendid view of the ocean. It also contains ramps, steps, rails and bowls that resemble the empty swimming pools where many of the Z-Boys -- Venice's hometown Zephyr skateboard team -- reinvented skateboarding in the Santa Monica and Venice areas in the 1970s.

The $3.4-million skate park was paid for by the sale of surplus city property in Venice and development fees, and did not draw from the general fund. It will be named after legendary Z-Boy skater Dennis "Polar Bear" Agnew, who died about five years ago, said Ger-I Lewis, the skate park coordinator and executive director of the Venice Surf and Skateboard Assn.

Among the park's features, city engineer Gary Lee Moore touted the "Deep Pool."

"It's 9 feet deep. It has no rails for you to use to get out," he said. "Once you're in, you have to skate your way out."

Next to it is the "Flow Bowl," a mini version of the deep pool. It's Priscilla Lee's favorite.

The 12-year-old from Manhattan Beach rolled up and down the bowl, every now and then aborting her ride to avoid colliding with another skater.

Moore's favorite course is the Snake, filled with meandering curves. It's also referred to as "Old School."

"It's where you'll find the 5-year-olds and the 55-year-olds," he said.

David Denbugh, 48, was there Saturday, gradually moving around the curves as his son West, 11, took a break.

Passerby Sean Carney, 44, of Santa Monica was just taking in the scene -- the tricks, the near misses.

"It's spectacular," Carney said. "It looks like anarchy but almost looks choreographed."

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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