Pop Culture

Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark Gets Ready to Shut Down for 6 Months

It's pretty much gonna suck for a while. Ever since the grand opening of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark in 2008, we've been up, down and all around the 30,000-square-foot facility, practicing our kick flips, ollies, shove-its, 360s and more. And why not? With plenty of poles, walls and ramps, and the world's largest cradle (vertical half-sphere), this public park has hosted big names in skating (World Cup Skateboard Champion Benji Galloway, Steve “Salba” Alba, Andrew Reynolds and Steve Caballero), plus new converts to pavement grinding each and every year since.

But it's all coming to a screeching halt on April 4. That's when the park is scheduled to shut down for some super-awesome upgrades and is scheduled to come back online by October 10, 2016. But before that happens, there's one final blow-out bash to be had at the park.

We spoke with veteran skateboarder Barry Blumenthal (“I've been skating for 40-plus years”) about the party, the park's importance to our community over the past eight years, and what we can look forward to when it reopens.

“[The party] will be a fantastic free event for skaters, music lovers and those who love cool things in Houston,” says Blumenthal. “The lineup is Supergrave and Biscuit Bombs.” He says that everything at the skate park is always free (the park has given away more than 1,600 helmets over the years) and that this party is no exception. It'll be a blend of music, skateboarding, art, rock and roll and giveaways, and Supergrave kicks it off at 3 p.m.

The bands will be set up by the bowl (the empty swimming pool), and Blumenthal says that creates a palatable energy that feeds between the skaters and the bands. “It almost looks like a mosh pit. It's a cool dynamic – like intense dancing for a punk band – it's a special kind of experience.”

Blumenthal is quick to praise the Jamail family, who footed most of the bill for the park's construction the first time around, and they're back at it again to underwrite most of the renovations. Those upgrades include shade structures, terraced seating, new fencing, LED light poles and the addition of graffiti boards.

“It's going to be comfortable to sit; there will be cooling stations with fans, stadium seating for 600, all kinds of art effects in the park; it will be special,” says Blumenthal. Skater Alley – the area on Sabine Street in front of the park's entrance – also is set to undergo renovations. "Jim Petersen is funding renovation of the entire Skater Alley area. It's going to be fantastic." (Petersen also donated to the skate park.) He says that Skater Alley is going to be an art/skate area, and that it serves as the “red carpet that rolls out the skate park.”

It will be a painful six months, however, during the construction. Blumenthal says that we still have North Houston Skate Park – the largest skate park in North America – but for some it would take a four-hour bus trip to get to the Kuykendahl facility in Spring. “This is the bittersweet part of the renovation project,” says Blumenthal. “Many of our young people have come to this facility religiously for the last eight years, and the absence even for six months will be a challenge.”

“The good news is it will come back better than ever by year end.” So fasten your grip tape and polish those trucks, 'cuz Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark 2.0 promises to be stoking.

"Skate and Enjoy HTX" is Saturday, March 26, 3 to 6 p.m., Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, 103 Sabine, 713-222-5500, click here for the event Facebook page. Free
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney