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Monday, Jul 28, 2014
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Advocate seeks historic designation for Bro Bowl skate park


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TAMPA-The nearly one-of-a-kind skateboard bowl in Perry Harvey Sr. Park is known and revered worldwide among skateboarders. Only three of the 1970s-era surfer-style bowls still are in use.

Skateboarders are spearheading a campaign to earn designation for what they affectionately call the "Bro Bowl" as a national historic landmark. It would be a first for a skateboard bowl.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the city's Historic Preservation Commission could make a critical decision on whether the bowl deserves historic designation and potentially could be saved from demolition. Its demise is linked to the city's plans to redesign the park and replace the Bro Bowl with a new facility in a different area of the park.

City officials have said pieces of the concrete bowl might be preserved as public art.

"If we have a chance to save it, there is no need to pay tribute to it with a memorial," said Shannon Bruffett, director of the Tampa Chapter of Florida Skateboarding Heritage Foundation. "There's so many things in Tampa we've erased that didn't get this consideration."

Bruffett filed an application with state preservation officials to declare the bowl a landmark. He has amassed about three years of research on skateboarding and skate bowls.

In 1978, Tampa's bowl was the first public skate bowl in Florida and still is open to the public at no charge. A skate bowl in Jacksonville from that era is in use but now is privately owned.

A third public bowl is in Santa Cruz, Calif.

State officials recently notified city officials of Bruffett's application, prompting city officials to put the item on the Historic Preservation Commission's agenda. The city's decision is needed prior to a July 25 meeting of the Florida National Registry Review Board. "We are reacting quickly so we don't miss any deadlines ourselves," said Thom Snelling, the city's director of planning and development.

Commission members can make a recommendation for or against the proposal, or find there is insufficient information to make a decision, Snelling said.

If favorable recommendations come from local and state reviews, state preservation officials would forward the Bro Bowl's nomination to the National Park Services. The federal agency can take up to 45 days to make its ruling.

The effect on plans to redesign Perry Harvey park is not clear. The city owns the park; Tampa Housing Authority is overseeing the construction of Encore, a mixed income, residential and retail project adjacent to the park. A portion of federal dollars granted to Encore will help pay for the park's redesign, estimated at about $7 million spread over about five years.

The Bro Bowl has changed little since skateboarders first rode its concrete moguls.

"It's pretty much the way it was built," said Barbara Mattick, deputy historic preservation officer with the Florida Department of State's Historical Resources division.

Generally landmarks are at least 50 years old to be eligible. Tampa's bowl is shy of that mark by more than a dozen years. But Mattick said history happens faster nowadays and the Bro Bowl is exceptionally significant "because it played a major role in the development of skateboading."

State preservation officials consider the bowl worthy of consideration as a national landmark, Mattick said. "We don't know how all the reviews will come out," she said, but support has come from individuals and organizations in Tampa, across the country and worldwide.

The application includes statements of support from a range of historians and skateboarders including Betsy Gordon, a skateboard historian, curator and speaker with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and skateboarding pioneer Tony Hawk.

Bruffett said skateboarders want to see the Bro Bowl left intact.

"I'm not here to fight," he said. "I want to maintain a positive relationship with the city. (But) if we can't come to some amicable solution we'll be involved in the decisions about the new park."

ksteele@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7652

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