New Des Moines skatepark to host Dew Tour skateboarding competition

Kevin Jones has owned Subsect Skateshop in Des Moines for 24 years. 

Sydney Novak

Des Moines, Iowa, will host the first and only Olympic qualifying skate event in the U.S. this year with Dew Tour at the new Lauridsen Skatepark in Des Moines.

At 88,000 square feet, the new Lauridsen Skatepark will be the largest in the nation when it is finished. The 2020 Olympics, now scheduled to take place in Japan in 2021, will be the first time skateboarding will be a competitive Olympic sport. At the Dew Tour competition in Des Moines, skaters from around the world will have a chance to earn a spot on the Olympic skate team for their respective country. 

“So there are international events where skaters can attend and compete and earn points and then those points rack up over all the events and like the top-three finishers basically from each continent are then allowed to compete for their country or their continent in the Olympics,” Norm Sterzenbach, a cabinet member of the Lauridsen Skatepark, said.

There are two different disciplines in Olympic skating, park skating and street skating, which are also divided by gender as well.

“So the park is like, kind of what more of what skateparks used to be, a lot of transition with some kind of street obstacles blended in there,” Kevin Jones, owner of Subsect Skateshop in Des Moines, said. “It’s very flowy, one continuous line and then street skating is more, you know, stairs, rails, ledges.” 

Although the Dew Tour skateboard festival typically takes place in Long Beach, California, a few factors likely influenced Dew Tour’s decision to host in Des Moines, Iowa, this year. The COVID-19 restrictions in California made it unlikely they would be able to host a gathering that large without violating social distancing ordinances. Sterzenbach had reached out to Dew Tour and other national events trying to promote the opening of the new park.

“When we put in the offer, they realized that they had this other existing skatepark that will be finished, it’s an Olympic-grade level park that they can come in and host their event at,” Sterzenbach said.

Prior to landing the Dew Tour however, making the skatepark a reality was much more difficult. The Lauridsen Skatepark has been in the works for the past 15 years, and most of those years have been spent fundraising. 

The park is a public-private partnership with the city of Des Moines. The city of Des Moines donated the land itself, which is 88,000 feet of skateable features, but the land itself is more than that. The land is right on the Des Moines river.

The skatepark will be named after Nix and Virginia Lauridsen, who donated $1.6 million to the park. Additionally, major corporations in the Des Moines area, Tony Hawk’s foundation “Skatepark Project” and community members all contributed to the fundraising effort of raising $7 million to actually build the park. The park is being built by California Skateparks.

Jones has been skateboarding for around 34 years and remembers what it was like prior to fundraising for skateparks, which was lobbying for policy change. Since skateboarding was considered dangerous, policies often stood in the way of publicly funded skateparks.

“Back in the day it was called a dangerous sports law, so like kind of the same that would go under, if you’re playing high school football and you get hurt, you can’t sue the school or school district,” Jones said. “So pretty much it kind of shoved skateboarding in the same category. This was probably like 20 years ago.” 

Prior to this policy change, the city required insurance for the liability issue of people being injured while skateboarding on publicly funded parks.

Despite the 20 years it took to finally bring an international skateboarding event to Des Moines, it was well worth the wait for Jones and couldn’t be better timing.

“I’ll probably be pretty busy, being at the event and other things all around, you know, we’ll have a booth at the Dew Tour,” Jones said. “And then you know I’m just more excited that the city I grew up skating in, you know right now everyone, every city needs extra love and you know, bars, restaurants are hurting, hotels that hear we’re getting this thing and it’s skateboarding providing a little boost for everybody. You know, I find that’s what I’m most excited for.”

It’s anticipated there will be 300+ pro skaters competing at the event, and it is still unclear how many tickets will be made available to the public amid COVID-19 regulations. Aside from the competition itself, there will be other events going on, such as autograph signings, merchandise giveaways and skateboarding clinics. These will likely be spread out throughout the community to comply with social distancing guidelines. 

With such a big event to celebrate its grand opening, some think this will serve as a catalyst to get more people in Des Moines interested in skating. 

“There’s not that many people who do roller skating ramps here in Des Moines, but it has been kind of more popular lately, so I have a few friends who have gotten into it,” Maddy Gilliam, an avid roller skater in Des Moines, said.

The Dew Tour competition will take place May 20-23. The skatepark will be finished and if tickets are sold to the public, they will be available for purchase through the Dew Tour’s website.

“You’re going to see a huge boom in skateboarding, it’s already the fastest-growing sport, particularly among 8-to-12-year-old boys, but there’s a huge pickup in 8-to-12-year-old girls are starting to take the sport even younger. I think we’re gonna see a huge spike in skateboard sales here and kids trying it and getting out there,” Sterzenbach said. “But I also think, because of the caliber of this park, give it a couple of years, we’re gonna start to see pro skaters come out of Des Moines.”