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Ah, Love Park. So called because it showcases Robert Indiana's famed Love sculpture (depicted above).


It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and to a large extent, those living in the area or those that have visited also know it as "John F. Kennedy Plaza." "Love Park" was originally an idea expressed by Edmund Bacon in the 1930s as part of his undergraduate architecture thesis at Cornell University (as a proposed way to redirect traffic at the Parkway intersection in the middle of town and thus make the city much easier to navigate), but would not begin construction until he had secured a job as a city planner, and finally the project's approval in the mid 1960s. The architect Vincent Kling was elected to design the park, who wrote up a blueprint involving a spiral of curving granite steps to mark the location. It opened to the public in 1965, and in 1967 it was dedicated to former President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated four years prior.

What else is it? That's the fun part, because it depends who you ask; to some, it is a scenic place of interest marked by an awe inspiring fountain (an addition later installed in the center of the park, in 1969, and the "Love" sculpture was later placed at the SE end in 1976) in the middle of a busy plaza; a place someone might like to rest after a long day out on the town. However, among skaters and a fair margin of the ESPN X games viewing crowd, it has garnered a less tame reputation. In the mid 80s, when skateboarding was beginning to attract more interest, a few young Philly residents conceived of their own use for the spiral staircases of the park, and its popularity as a skating spot began to spread throughout town (as a point of interest, skateboarding was quite difficult back then, due to the particular board shape used to skate at that time).

Love Park Achieves Fame

It was the local community's best kept secret for a while, but in the early 90s, the word began to spread; not only were most of Philadelphia's skateboarders using the park to hone their skills, it began to gain fame nation wide as bigger names began showing up to shoot videos of their exploits (as a late example of this phenomenon, the park is seen being skated in the Philadelphia chapter of the acclaimed DC Video, one of the most well known skate videos of all time). Shortly after some of these videos gained exposure, proliferating onto shelves of underground skate shops across the United States, magazine coverage followed, and ultimately international repute. Drawn in by what they saw, tourists would come from thousands of miles away to see and photograph the landscape, and naturally do a little skating themselves. Couldn't hurt, right?

Finally, people who just wanted to spectate would come and watch the action, often bringing other members of their families with them. The enjoyment went on for quite a while, but inevitably, although beloved in the hearts of the great majority of Philadelphia's citizens, there was a counter-reaction to what was going on by certain members of the city council (it is of note that the park sits adjacent to City Hall). Claiming skateboarders had "taken over the place", the mayor placed a ban on skating in the park (with an associated $300 fine) and it was ordered closed in 2002. In the subsequent months, it would be subject to a drastic (and rather expensive) renovation project involving strategically placed impediments to skateboarding (specifically, planters in front of some of the steps, as well as a large area of the park being seeded with grass).

The Aftermath

"Basically Love Park felt like home. It was my home. Really it's unexplainable... I know everybody there
and everybody knows me, it's like family."
-- Stevie Williams (professional skater), ESPN interview

Sadly, what has happened is not easily reversible, and the park that some very well known figures in skateboarding have built their careers on is now rather "FUBAR." Despite petitions in favor of reversing the ban, efforts have thusfar been unsuccessful. However, just recently, in June of this year, a protest where participants showed up in overwhelming numbers resulted in various stints of skating the less compromising terrain of the new park. The solution ultimately proposed to the disagreement between skaters, along with the companies that endorse them, and city officials is slated to be the construction of an entirely new park altogether (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1st, 2005). That won't bring back the old days, but at least it will quell enough of the controversy to bring the more rabid members of both parties closer to speaking terms. Time will tell.


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