By the late 1990s, Philadelphia’s Love Park had become an international destination for skateboarders. In 2000, following a controversy over skateboarders in Love Park, the Skater’s Defense Lobby was created by Joshua Nims, Bryan Lathrop, Brian Nugent and Liz Kerr to defend the rights of skaters against proposed municipal legislation. This group then rallied around the cause to secure safe and dedicated spaces for skateboarding in Philadelphia, as well as to advocate for the positive value of skateboarding as a sport and recreational pastime for youth. Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund (FPSF) was founded in 2001.
As a voice for skaters in the region, FPSF began to bridge the divide between the City of Philadelphia and the increasing needs of a rapidly growing skateboarding population. In 2001 and 2002 over 200,000 spectators attended the X Games, with thousands attending a unique street plaza contest at City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza both years. Millions of viewers saw Philadelphia through the Gravity Games held in Philadelphia with FPSF and Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCVB) as partners in Summer 2005.
FPSF’s work initially focused on addressing the need for skateparks, in particular Paine’s Park, which has become the organization’s flagship capital project on the Schuylkill. Over the early 2000’s several of the smaller skatepark projects were also realized, including Whitehall Skatepark in the Frankford section of Philadelphia and repairs to FDR skatepark in South Philadelphia. In 2004 FPSF incorporated and received its tax-exempt status. Capital fundraising for the park began in earnest in 2007 and resulted in the remarkable accomplishment of raising $4.5 million in capital support to develop the project.
Following the establishment of a nonprofit corporation in 2004, and a more formal board and staff structure, FPSF broadened its mission to include programs: Gear 4 Groms, Charter High School for Architecture & Design Program, and the development of other, smaller skatepark projects, Pop’s, McCreesh and a new phase of permanent construction at Whitehall to name a few. Most recently FPSF collaborated with the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department to complete a Master Plan for Philadelphia Skateboarding. This plan calls for as many as 15 skateparks in this area of the city to meet the need of local skaters.