In the heart of Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy North, “Fitzy Bowl”, as it’s affectionately known, has been a fixture of the city’s skate scene and the local community for decades. This winter the space will undergo a massive expansion.
Steve “Shoota” Kelly from Grind Projects, the skater-owned-and-operated outfit contracted to complete the project, says works will begin in May and are expected to take eight to 12 weeks. The original bowl will remain open throughout the build.
The new design will see the site more than double in size, expanding north towards Alfred Crescent and west towards St Georges Road with a full concrete skatepark, new seating and open spaces. The skate park will include a range of concrete transitions and other obstacles, as well as expansive flat-ground options.
These more mellow additions should offer budding skaters and riders plenty of options beyond the more daunting concrete bowls, which have historically been the preserve of committed transition skaters – often intimidating or uninteresting, even to experienced street and park skaters.
There will also be seating for families, spectators and skaters, and some much longed-for night lighting as well as areas of shade from existing trees.
Come spring, the upgraded skate park will be ready to welcome locals alongside a fresh cohort of rollers and riders of all sorts.
The Fitzroy Bowl opened in 1991 as one of only a few Melbourne municipal forays into facilities for the then-emergent trends of skateboarding and bmx’ing. It quickly became a neighbourhood meeting place for young locals of all backgrounds, as well as a destination for international skaters.
But locals have been lobbying the council to make expansions to the bowl for decades. The steep concrete transitions popular in the 1980s, which originally inspired Fitzy, soon fell out of favour in the skateboarding world – mostly because of their general inaccessibility to the average kid. As interest in street and park skating ramped up across Australia during the ’90s and ’00s, locals hoped they’d get a shiny new park, just like the hundreds of others built across the country in the last 20 years. Australia reportedly has one of the highest per capita rates of public skateparks in the world, with nearly 2000 listed on skateboard.com.au – the country’s pre-eminent skate website. But change at Fitzy has been a long time coming.
The most recent campaign to change the Fitzroy Bowl involved a years-long consultation process with the wider local community as well as local skaters, BMXers, rollerbladers, rollerskaters and scooter riders “of all ages and abilities”, from teenagers to those in their forties, the City of Yarra said in a statement.
The result is a space that regular bowl users and the council feel will be inclusive and accessible for a diverse cross-section of visitors and the community, while preserving the site’s character and crucial elements.
“Skaters are passionate people, so it was always going to be hard to please everyone,” says Patrick Buchanan, a more than 25-year veteran of the bowl who’s been skating there since childhood and now has two kids of his own. He’s been part of numerous campaigns to expand the facility – including this most recent one.
Accommodating the wants of so many stakeholders was tricky, he says, “but we hope the final design offers something for all”.
“Most importantly for Fitzy locals,” he says, “the original bowl will remain untouched and will continue its reign as one of the country’s best, while fostering the unique culture and community for another generation.”