After almost two decades of dreaming about a top-notch skate park in Fredericton, Rodney Mann is finally able to ollie, nosegrind and disaster slide to his heart's content, at least once the weather warms up.
"It's been 19 years in the making," said the Fredericton skater. "I don't know if I can explain how it felt. It just felt right."
Mann said he has already spent dozens of hours at Fredericton's all-wheel sports plaza since its unofficial opening on Dec. 10. The park is downtown, along St. Anne's Point Drive.
"I've been here every day I could be here, even on the days I shouldn't be here," said Mann.
The work isn't done.
The city still plans to put a fence along the park. There will be more landscaping. There is a grand opening planned for the spring, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.
Mann was a kid 19 years ago, he started a bottle drive with the hopes of raising enough money to build a skate park. Mann said there's been countless fundraisers since then to try and raise enough money.
As he got older, he started lobbying city council to build the park. As time went on he started to think it might not happen, but he regained hope after the last municipal election.
"We had a fresh crop of councillors and a new mayor who saw the city in a different light, in a light that reflects some of the underappreciated segments of the community," said Mann.
Once he heard the park would be discussed at city council meetings, Mann and fellow skaters started showing up to council meetings to show their support for the park.
After council decided the city would build a skate park, it had to decide where to build. The city looked at building it on the north side, by Willie O'Ree Place and on the south side near the Small Craft Aquatic Centre.
After some issues with both locations, Mann is happy with where the park ended up along St. Anne's Point Drive.
"Having the skate park downtown is key to the skate park's success. It's really important that a successful park is visible, it's accessible," said Mann.
Mann said this creates a new social hub for young people and families. He said this will help grow extreme sports in the city, and could lead to more competitive skaters coming from Fredericton.
Nathaniel Thomas, 17, rides a scooter, and shares some of his tricks and adventures on YouTube. He's been riding his scooter since he was 11, and is happy to have a new place to show off his moves.
"It's a 10 out of 10," said Thomas. "Of course, I wish it would've been built sooner, but now that it's built I am very satisfied with it."
Mann hopes it will be the upcoming generation of skaters to take the sport to the next level. He said Fredericton could see more professional and Olympic-level skaters come from the city because of the park.
"I can't say enough about how positive the feedback has been. This is exactly what the community needed," said Mann.