Can Huntington Beach become Skate City USA?

Huntington Beach is known as Surf City USA, but another board will strengthen its foothold in the city when Vans holds a ground breaking ceremony on its “Off the Wall” Skatepark on Thursday morning.

The world-class skateboarding and BMX complex will be at the corner of Gothard Street and Center Avenue, approximately 32,000-square feet with areas for vert and street skaters and complete with a skate shop provided by Jack’s Garage.

“Vans has always been in Huntington Beach and they always called it Surf City USA,” said Steve Van Doren, son of Vans co-Founder Paul Van Doren and a life-long Vans employee and Costa Mesa native. “We were always friends with the city and we thought if any place should have a skate park, it’s Huntington Beach.”

VF Outdoor Inc., a subsidiary of Vans’ parent VF Corp., entered into a lease agreement with Huntington Beach on Jan. 27. The City Council unanimously approved a plan to lease the near three-acre site for $1 a year for 20 years, with two 10-year options to renew, in return for Vans covering the cost to build and maintain the skate park, which will be constructed by California Skateparks and should cost about $2.5 million, Van Doren said.

City Councilman Joe Carchio was excited about what the new complex could mean not only for skaters all around Orange County and the country, but the entire city with Vans covering so much of the costs while making it free to the public.

He said he hopes the venue will be complete in six months.

“I wish I could skateboard,” Carchio joked.

The park, which will sit off the 405 Freeway’s Beach Boulevard exit, is hoped to generate sales tax revenue by attracting more business to the city. Bella Terra, an outdoor shopping center that is less than a mile away from the site, is expected to get a boost, as the skating venue will also host professional and amateur skating and BMX events, according to Van Doren.

“Hopefully, [the events] will be in the neighborhood of our surf contests where the prize money will bring in top-notch skateboarders,” Carchio said. “We will be able to promote the city as a skate city and a surf city. I don’t think we are going to change our name, but hopefully it brings in some high-quality people.”

The complex will hold a 15,000-square foot skating bowl area and a 12,000-square-foot skate plaza, with rails and other small obstacles to mimic a street environment. It will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and include a restroom, drinking fountain and parking lot.

It’s also the first outdoor skate park Vans has completely funded. The company also operates an indoor, pay-to-skate park at the Block at Orange.

Carchio said the city had been under “some pressure from the skate community” to provide a quality skate park after it closed a skate park on Main Street a few years ago.

“There’s really nothing here for skaters,” said renowned professional vert skateboarder Christian Hosoi, a Huntington Beach resident since 1993. “The closest legitimate skatepark is the Vans Skatepark at the Block, and outside of that you had to go to Costa Mesa or Venice Beach.”

Hosoi said the new complex will be a one-stop-shop for vert and street skaters, as well as bikers, all over Orange County. He hopes it might inspire one of his three sons, ages 3, 6 and 15, to pursue the same career path he did.

“To see this happening in my backyard where my kids can go, where they can go learn and have a safe haven, is awesome,” said Hosoi, who helped design some of the bowl areas at the new park. “Skateboarding gives them a platform to be whoever they want to be.”

After being in the planning stages for years, Huntington Beach should have its new skate park in about six months, Carchio said.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” he said. “Once those shovels go in the ground, the thing is going to go pretty quick.”

Twitter: @TCNShortall