PFSP 'pushing hard' to get funds

Garrett Hodges of Portage skates at Portage Family Skate Park in June 2017. The park's fundraising group has until June 1 to maximize a matching grant of $37,500 that it received from the Edward and June Lenz Charitable Trust.

Dells Events file photo

Raising money in the dead of winter might be the biggest obstacle for Portage Family Skate Park leaders who hope to receive $37,500 in matching funds to expand the facility in Goodyear Park.

“It’s difficult to raise funds in bad weather because we’re not out in the public as much, and community activity is what brings more awareness,” said skate park President Kyle Little. “But we’re pushing hard.”

The organization so far has raised $20,000 after receiving a matching grant from the Edward and June Lenz Charitable Trust in June 2017. To get the full amount, the group has until June 1 to raise an additional $17,500.

June Lenz, who died in 2014, taught business classes for 42 years at Pardeeville High School, where Little went to school and graduated in 2000. “As a former student of hers, it feels like she’s challenging me again,” he said. “We’re telling everyone, now is the time. The month of June is right around the corner.”

Phase One — the 4,178-square-foot skate park that opened in August 2016 — cost about $210,000 to design and construct. Per an agreement with the city, boosters raised $50,000 for Phase One, and the city paid for the rest, Little said. Phases Two and Three — already designed at about 3,500 square feet, each — would cost about $130,000 per addition.

The expansions likely will depend entirely on fundraising efforts. If the group receives the full $37,500 from the grant, its fundraising total for expansions would stand at about $100,000, Little estimated. That’s the kind of capital he thinks could get Phase Two construction started in 2018 or 2019.

Supporters hope the city can contribute funds for expansions, but Portage likely wouldn’t be able to do so until 2020, if at all, Mayor Rick Dodd said. “Overall, I’m very much in favor of it expanding,” he said. “Three or four years ago, we told Kyle (Little) we’d work with him to complete all three phases.”

“We currently don’t have the money in the budget for 2018, and probably not for 2019,” Dodd added.

At Dodd’s request, Little provides updates every six months for Parks and Recreation regarding skate park fundraising efforts, with Little’s next update set for the late spring or early summer, Dodd said. Last week, the city appointed Little to serve on its Historic Preservation Commission, providing another avenue for keeping everyone on the same page, Dodd said. Phase One street features involved materials from the old Clough Building that had once existed on site, as well as features that honor the city’s curling history.

“I’m really happy with what Kyle is doing,” Dodd said. “I know some people think he’s overzealous, but that’s the way you need to be when you’re trying to raise money for private ventures. You need to keep pumping.”

The skate park’s first two summers went well, seeing high use and no major accidents or other incidents, Dodd and Little said. The city offered skateboard basics classes in the spring and summer for 21 students ages 4-10, and park organizers hope to work with the city to double enrollment, increase the age limit to either 15 or 16, and include scooting in the lessons.

“The hope is to fill every spot available, and that the students will keep coming back and grow with the program,” Little said of skateboard classes. “Our youth are getting out in the sun.”

Portage’s success in getting Phase One completed has so far attracted attention from leaders in communities like Baraboo, Beaver Dam and Princeton, Little said. The Princeton Community Skatepark project, for example, is currently working with the city and school district to build a skate park on school grounds there.

Visitors to the Portage skate park have traveled from as far as Port Orchard, Washington, with regular users from Portage and surrounding communities like Endeavor, Lodi and Wisconsin Dells, among others, Little said.

Skateboarding will be part of the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, a first for the sport, and that’s a big reason why supporters wants to see the project completed as soon as possible. More than ever, Little said, the sport is attracting people of all ages, backgrounds and genders, and the expansion could help bring competitive events and attract stores like pro shops to Portage, generating more traffic and tourism dollars for the city.

“There’s such a big surge for the sport, and we don’t see it dying down any time soon,” Little said.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau

Portage Daily Register reporter