Heaven Is Here: Hartford's Skate Park Is Officially Open

HARTFORD — To the average passerby, the mass of brick and concrete at the intersection of Trumbull and Main streets might not seem like much, but to the people on the inside, it's Heaven.

The Heaven skate park opened officially on Saturday afternoon, after five years of planning, building and collaboration. The opening day celebration brought people of all ages and skill levels from all over Connecticut and beyond to the capital city, a trip that many said they will make often now that the park is there.

"This is going to be like a mecca for Hartford," said Mitchell Trotman, 25.

Trotman, a Hartford resident with his own film and photography business, was at the park helping skateboard and rap group Abnormal Area capture the event. Members of the group said that they think the park will give them a chance to network with other skaters, musicians, artists and local businesses.

"We're just glad it's happening," said Mike Harding, 23, of Meriden. "People try to act like skateboarders are rebels or something, but we want what everybody wants: a community."

That community atmosphere was palpable on Saturday as skaters high-fived and cheered each other on while spectators wandered the perimeter, chatting with vendors and graffiti artists.

A space like Heaven creates a real "underground bonding," Trotman said.

University of Hartford art student Chaz Well, who turned 21 on Saturday, said he plans to return to the park a lot this summer because it's so close to campus. Well, both a skater and graffiti artist, said he thinks the way the park was built is great, but the best part of the space is probably the people in it.

"Everything is smooth, the transition isn't too choppy," he said of the concrete ramps and ledges, "and just good people. There are really good people here."

The park was proposed in 2009 by then city councilman Luis Cotto and his administrative assistant at the time, Brendan Mahoney. The pair spearheaded the task force, created by the city council, and collaborated with the Hartford business community, the Tony Hawk Foundation, based in Vista, Calif., as well as the city's youth to get the project on board.

"We're pretty happy with it," Mahoney said on Saturday. The area was an unofficial skating location long before construction started on the park, and Mahoney said that although Saturday was the official opening, people had started skating there again as soon as the concrete hardened.

"If you take out the fence and you have a skate park, people are going to skate," he said, laughing. "The risk was never that people wouldn't come."

The best part, Mahoney said, is just how talented Hartford's skating community is.

"I'm psyched," he said. "Everyone's really good."