Bradenton resident Gary Jones drops in on one of the ramps at the Holmes Beach Skateboard Park. Islander Photo: Kevin Cassidy
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Holmes Beach Skate Park rolling along smoothly
All of the concerns and fears that surrounded the approval and building of the Holmes Beach Skate Park appear to be unfounded, based on how well things have gone since the park opened in June 2003.
Most of the concerns voiced by citizens and some commissioners were based on a bad rap - image - of skateboarders. People don't seem to like their clothing, taste in music, and generally view them as some sort of criminal element. That perception is fueled by skateboarders' penchant for skating in front of banks, churches and other businesses, but that's because they had no place else to skate.
"Invariably [the skateboarders] are going to cause damage at these locations that simply weren't designed for skateboarding," stated Lt. Dale Stephenson of the Holmes Beach Police Department, a proponent of the park. "The concrete steps get chipped and there's also the liability of skaters running into pedestrians or into traffic."
Another major concern for building the park was that it would draw unsavory characters "from across the bridge" that would increase the crime rate and lower real estate values.
The park has drawn a large number of skateboarders from Bradenton, but the crime rate remains the same while real estate values continue to mushroom.
In fact, Stephenson said that the park has reduced the amount of complaints made to that police department. "We used to receive 13-14 calls per month to chase skateboarders away from St. Bernard's, the banks, S&S Plaza and other locations. Now the kids have a place to skate so we receive almost no calls of that nature."
The strongest argument against the building of the skate park was the potential liability the city would face due to serious injuries incurred at the park, but that hasn't materialized either. Stephenson stated that paramedics have responded to the park only three times - with the most serious injury being a hip pointer. No one has been taken for further treatment and most injuries have been minor bumps and bruises.
Stephenson went on to state that the skate park is probably the most utilized of the city's public properties. The park, which has more than 300 registered users, averages roughly seven-12 skaters at any given time. The majority are from Bradenton, but there are approximately 100 registered Islanders and a fairly large number of tourists that pay the $30 registration fee to use the park.
Eleven-year-olds Tyler Bean and Matt Whitaker, both from Indianapolis, Ind., enjoy the park. They said they're used to paying up to $7 dollars per session at some parks back home, so their parents don't mind paying the $30 fee. Daniel Lasater, 8, of Bradenton, also enjoys the park. "I come a couple of times per month, but I'd come more if my mom would drive me out here."
For the first six weeks after the park opened last year, volunteers monitored the park to make sure that skaters complied with rules, but since that time it has been monitored by Holmes Beach officers as part of their regular routine patrols.
"The biggest problem we've encountered is ensuring that skaters wear all of the required pads, especially wrist guards," said Stephenson. "Other than that, it has gone extremely well. I'd like to see the park expanded a little to add a couple more ramps and make it bigger."
Whether the park gets expanded remains to be seen, but it's nice to see the park, which started as a class project by then-Anna Maria Elementary student Brad Bryant, doing so well.
Could a skateboarding contest be on the horizon? This writer would like to see it happen!
Island hoopster, 13, on 17-under AAU squad
Long-time Island resident Celia Ware, recently was named as a member of the Evolution Ladies 17-and-under AAU traveling basketball team. Ware, 13, and currently a student at Island Middle School, attended a tryout at Booker High School where she competed with and against 30 girls, many of whom are members of their respective high school teams.
Celia was admittedly nervous when she attended the tryout. All of the girls except one were older, bigger, and definitely had more experience playing basketball at a higher level.
Celia apparently made an impression, according to her father, Jeff Ware. "After the tryouts, they told us we'd get a phone call telling us whether or not she made the team. We weren't two blocks from the tryout when my cell phone rang and Celia received the news that she had made the team."
Celia has honed her skills playing in the coed youth leagues at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and gives a lot of credit to her coaches at the Center. "Coach Tracy Glarner has helped me a lot about learning the right way to play basketball," Celia stated.
Playing with and against the boys also helped, according to dad. "The boys are so aggressive, which has definitely helped Celia." Jeff went on to say that it doesn't surprise him seeing as how she's been playing basketball pretty hard since she was 5.
Right now Celia and her new teammates are practicing three to four times per week to prepare for the upcoming AAU season. They have one-, two- and three-day tournaments scheduled in Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach and other locations across the state.
Celia is understandably excited and can't wait for the games to start. As usual to youth sports, there are always monetary costs involved. She is helping the team sell car-wash tickets for $5, and the basketball club will also accept tax deductible donations.
For more information, you can e-mail the Evolution Ladies Basketball Club at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck, Celia!
Little League resumes after relaxing break
All three age groups of Anna Maria Island Little League get back at it after a nice spring break from school. Some players and coaches apparently took advantage of the time and went away for a few days, while others were content to hang out, catch a spring training baseball game, or simply go to the beach and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Mark your calendars for April 17 and May 30. April 17 is picture day and fun day at the Center. Team and individual photos will be taken in addition to an impressive offering of food, games and activities for the entire family. Team photo schedules will be distributed to team managers and to players as the date gets closer.
Sunday, May 30, is Anna Maria Island Community Center Day at Tropicana Field. The loathed (by this writer) New York Yankees and it's collection of All-Stars, like Jason Giambi, A-Rod and Derek Jeter, will come to the Trop for a 1:15 p.m. game against promising Tampa Bay youngsters like Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff.
Upper infield reserved seats cost just $15 with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Center.
To place ticket orders, or for more information, you can contact the Center at 778-1908, or you can contact Devil Rays representative Barry Jones at 1-888-FAN RAYS, ext. 3123, or (727) 825-3123.
Spring break soccer camp
While public schools in Manatee County will have finalized spring break before this camp, there's still plenty of kids around the Island to take advantage of it. Head boy's and girl's soccer coach at Bradenton Academy, John Hartman, is hosting a soccer camp with a staff of collegiate-level players for younger players ages 6-14 at a cost of $75 per player, or $125 per family. The camp is being held at Palma Sola Park 9-11:30 a.m. April 5-9.
The focus of the camp will be on individual foot skills. Each day these skills will be reinforced through small-sided games. Campers will be matched up according to talent / age group. All campers need to bring water, ball (No. 4 for ages 7-12; No. 5 for ages 13-14) and shin guards and wear comfortable clothing.
To register, provide your child's name, age, gender and address, along with a check made payable to Excel Sports, 6050 34th St. W., Apt. 509, Bradenton FL 34210, or call Hartman at 773-6010.
Anna Maria Island Little League baseball schedules
Date Time Teams
Junior League (ages 13-15)
April 2 7 p.m. Islander vs. Team 9 @ G.T. Bray
April 3 10 a.m. Islander vs. Team 2 @ Birdie Tebbetts
Major League (ages 9-12)
March 31 6:30 p.m. WMFD vs. Island Lumber
April 2 6:30 p.m. Duncan vs. WMFD
April 5 7 p.m. Duncan vs. WMFD
Minor League (ages 8-9)
April 1 6:30 p.m. Bark Realty vs. Betsy Hills
April 3 11:30 a.m. Morgan Stanley vs. Betsy Hills
April 5 5 p.m. Morgan Stanley vs. Betsy Hills
April 6 6:30 p.m. Bark Realty vs. Morgan Stanley
T-ball (ages 5-7)
April 3 9 a.m. Harry's vs. Beach House
April 3 10 a.m. Morgan Stanley vs. Air & Energy
April 6 5 p.m. Morgan Stanley vs. Harry's
Major League standings (as of March 19)
Duncan Real Estate 3-1
Island Lumber 3-1