Perhaps describing Edinburgh Gardens as a skateboarding Mecca is slightly overzealous, but it’s status as a go-to spot for countless skaters can’t be denied. The three locations at which they congregate are the driveway in front of the war memorial (near the grandstand), the old ticket box on the corner of Brunswick and Freeman (known as Fitzy Plaza) and, last but not least, the official skate park – otherwise known as Fitzy Bowl.
The skate park and its perpetually graffitied bowl – nestled in Alfred Crescent, next to the playground at the northern end of the park – has been a fixture of Edinburgh Gardens since it was built in 1991. Change, however, is on the horizon – earlier this year, Yarra City Council announced it was to double in size to create a “welcoming, inclusive and more accessible skate park”.
The Council says that the Fitzy Bowl is one of the area’s more challenging skate parks and has “very few options for beginner skaters”. Indeed, numerous noteworthy skateboarders have frequented it in the past, including Shane O’Neill, who recently represented Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.
While the existing skate bowl (and the miniature bowl next to it) will remain in place, works will soon commence on a revamp catering to “skaters, BMXers, roller skaters, and scooter riders of all ages and abilities”. The emphasis is on making the skate park feel welcome to everyone, particularly children.
Jules Sheldon, who’s skated at Fitzy Bowl for 18 years, believes that “an expansion of the demographics that use the bowl is extremely important”. He stresses that he’s in no way opposed to the refurbishment, even if the design is lacking in imagination.
“I don’t think there’s anything special about it. Instead of making it into something ground-breaking, which should be the goal of every skatepark, it’s ended up being quite mediocre.”
But he acknowledges it was a compromise, and that while there’s unsurprisingly been “some cynicism” from the bowl’s regulars, they have nothing to worry about: “The actual bowl itself, and the culture around it, I don’t think will change.”
“It will expand the users, which is nothing but a good thing.”
Indeed, the existing bowl won’t be altered or removed. Instead, the park is set to become much larger and will include quarter pipes, rails and ledges – as well as more seating for spectators.
The Council say the proposed changes have been made in consultation with an independent “external design and engagement group” who consulted on the changes with regular users of the skate park. This group of 12 regulars were aged between 17 and 45.
Whether its redevelopment is met with scepticism or enthusiasm, this iconic fixture of Edinburgh Gardens is set to enter a new era.