History was made last month in Los Angeles when an infamous '90s skate spot which had become illegal to skate was repurposed as a permanent legal place to skate for the foreseeable future. The Santa Monica Courthouse, located in the city of West Los Angeles, is now an open skate plaza during daylight hours seven days a week.
Pro skateboarder Eric Koston, who manned the scissors during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, was one of the main skateboarders to make the spot famous when he skated it in the '90s. And from his perspective as a pioneer of the spot, he was thrilled at the way in which it all happened.
"I'm psyched that we got a spot back," said Koston. "Twenty years ago this was a place where I kicked it and skated. I was just having fun but it helped me become better as a skater. It's kind of cool that we've made it skateable again and the city is okay with it, whereas previously it was frowned upon."
Part of that has to do with Alec Beck, a skateboarder who helped make Stoner Skate Park happen with Jay Handal, chair of the West LA neighborhood council. After Nike refurbished the courthouse to make it skateable for Go Skateboarding Day in June, Beck reached out to the city through Handal, who in turn reached out to Nike.
While the skate community was all for it, the idea of having a place to skate a second time around was not lost on chairman Handal either, who fully supported it. "With the hours being limited at Stoner Park this summer and Nike doing their event here a month ago, it dawned on me. 'Why can't we, now that everything has been retrofitted, sit down with Nike and make a deal where they'll participate financially to help maintain the area during the course of the year?' In the end maintaining the spot means it is safer for the skaters and better-looking for the community. Nike did not even blink when I made the suggestion and within 48 hours we had a meeting in their office, and here we are less than a month and it's open."
The impact from the reopening was felt by pro skater and LA native Theotis Beasley, who looked forward to the next five years of footage from the famed spot. Beasley said, "West LA has Stoner Park, but here they now have a place with roots where they can can come and skate. Nike signed a contract for five years, so people can feel free to film here if you want to. I'm excited to see what people are going to do on the ledges and the stage."
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the courthouse is a place skaters far and wide dream of making a pilgrimage to. Nike rider Bert Wooten is proof of this. "I grew up in Florida and this was a spot where skating wasn't even realistic to me," said Wooten. "This and Love Park in Philadelphia were the two spots I'd see in videos and I'd try and put myself there and just imagine that I'd skate there one day. When I was younger I got to skate at Love Park, so I did that, but this one was still on my list to check it off."
Now anybody can check the courthouse off their list so long as the sun is shining.
And Handal is certain there won't be any tickets written for skateboarding. "This is now legal. Before it was illegal. Everything was posted 'No Skateboarding. LA Municipal Code 602.' Well guess what? That's done. It's a new day for the skaters in the city of Los Angeles. The civic center, the public space created for the people by the taxpayer dollars of the people, is now open for everybody to come recreate."