Skate park plan gaining momentum

  • April 6, 2015
  • /   Ben Sheffler
  • /   community-dashboard
Jon Shell's vision of a combined skatepark and community plaza is more than just having a place to shred. He's addressing a social issue in which young skateboarders — which he calls the forgotten youth — are often viewed as bad kids because it's illegal to skate around town. "I feel like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy," Shell says. "They start thinking they're bad kids, then they kind of become bad kids because there's nowhere for them to go; I think a community plaza could change that." [sidebar] For more information on Upward Intuition, visit its website at, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook @upwardintuition or Instagram @jonandfriends. [/sidebar] The community plaza is a project of Upward Intuition, which is hosting a fundraiser for the plaza idea on April 24 at the Rex Theatre, where The Gills and Continuum will perform a benefit concert, Shell's "Forgotten Youth" documentary will premiere and a silent auction will be held. Shell says the mayor, city officials and business leaders are all invited to attend. The April 24 fundraiser will help pay for architectural renderings of the plaza. "I think we'll be able to pack it out," he says. "It should be a really fun night." More than 2,000 people had signed the plaza's petition even before it moved online. Nik McCue, who grew up skating in Pensacola in the early 1980's and worked at Innerlight Surf & Skate periodically for the last 15 years, says he's seen kids take on the bad kid mindset. "Seeing otherwise good kids develop and align themselves with other underground type activities, I've absolutely seen great kids get hugely affected by that," he says. "You know that what you're doing is not wanted or part of any acceptable practices, and so you kind of have to operate as if you're breaking the rules." Shell wants the plaza to be all inclusive. "We’re calling it a community plaza, and yes it's going to be for skateboarding, but we want people to be able to enjoy other activities there too, and we want them to just be able to hang out, have fun and watch the skating," he says. Other ideas Shell has for the plaza include live music events and art shows, and it's important to him for it to be aesthetically pleasing. "When people think skatepark, they think wooden ramps with rusty screws," he says. "We want it to look like a piece of art; a beautiful city park." McCue acknowledges there are a couple skate parks in town, but he believes Pensacola can do better. "From the skater's perspective...those aren’t really skater-designed or skater-motivated; they're clearly afterthoughts," he says. "I think that Jon has as best a shot as I've ever seen at getting the community to recognize and take action." In the few weeks since he first blogged about the idea and founded Upward Intuition, Shell's met with businessmen who say they're on board with the project. "Lately I've just been working on getting the support of the more influential people in town that can actually implement change," he says. Shell's met with Andrew Rothfeder, president of Studer Properties about his top choice for the plaza — the Community Maritime Park. He also says that Steve Dana, senior design associate at Jerry Pate Design, has expressed interest in doing the landscape architecture. "The thing that excites me is to be part of encouraging our creative citizens that are building and creating our city, to help them with their visions to help us grow," Dana says.   [embed][/embed] Shell says he wants Upward Intuition to be a platform for those who want to implement positive change in the community, and the skate plaza is only the first project. "Ultimately, I want Upward Intuition to be the voice of the youth and my generation that otherwise may not be heard," he says. Shell and Upward Intuition have already been involved in other community initiatives, such as working on a community garden project with Innisfree Hotels at Hollice T. Williams Park. For every hour volunteers work, Shell says, they get to take home a box of organic vegetables. "That's one of the issues I feel most strongly about — getting kids to eat better and become more active," he says. "If a kid goes out there and grows their own kale and tomatoes, they're going to eat it." Upward Intuition also co-hosted an event at The Pensacola Fish House recently to raise money to send Thang Nguyen to the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. They raised $1,500, $500 more than their goal. Shell, 26, grew up in Pensacola and graduated from the University of Central Florida, where he studied real estate and entrepreneurship. He says he eventually wants to go into real estate development. "The reality is it's a beautiful place. Our beaches are amazing; we get good waves--sometimes," he says. "So I can't really think of anywhere else that I'd rather be, I just want to have a say and be able to make the change that I think the community needs."  
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