Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk draws crowd of 1,500 to break in Carnegie Park
Sean Robertson's eyes sparkled in awe as he watched professional skateboarder Tony Hawk pull off an invert — skating up the side of a concrete bowl and doing a handstand.
“I did a report on him when I was 10,” said Robertson, 17, of Mt. Lebanon. “It's just so cool to see him.”
The same look was in Mary Pitcher's eyes as she watched a crowd of about 1,500 gather in Carnegie Park on Monday to watch Hawk become one of the first to land his wheels on the Pitcher Park Memorial Skatepark.
“In my head, I thought it would come together, but I had my doubts,” she said. “I'm just in shock, I think.”
The skatepark has been a six-year endeavor for Pitcher, president of the Pitcher Park Foundation, which she established to build a skatepark in memory of two of her sons.
Vincent Pitcher, 21, and his brother, Stephen, 19, died on July 15, 2008, during a camping trip when Stephen jumped into Kinzua Lake from the James Morrison Bridge on Route 59 in Warren County. Vincent saw his brother struggling and jumped in from shore to help him, but both drowned. Both were avid skateboarders.
The $600,000 park — opening this fall — includes a street course, bowls and a 20-foot full pipe. It was funded in part by Hawk's nonprofit, the Tony Hawk Foundation, and the Ken and Carol Schultz Foundation, based in Arizona but headed by Bridgeville native Ken Schultz.
“It's been amazing to see the passion behind this project and to see it finally come to light,” said Hawk, 46, who retired from professional competition in 1999 but continues to tour and perform exhibitions. “I'm honored, to be honest.”
Pitcher originally sought to put the skateboard park in Dormont, where her sons grew up. After four years of negotiations with the borough, Dormont Council in May 2012 overturned a memorandum of understanding it had with Pitcher, stating that the previous council had not followed proper procedure in approving it.
Pitcher said Dormont's rejection led her to work even harder to find a site for the park.
“Mary is very passionate, and this wouldn't have happened without her,” Hawk said. “She knew the best ways to utilize our resources and to cut through the red tape.”
That passion led her to Carnegie.
“In Carnegie, it was like night and day,” she said. “(Mayor) Jack Kobistek was so welcoming. He had the foresight to want a skatepark in the community.”
Hawk said the drive of Pitcher and her foundation helped make the park a reality.
“It's almost hard to use this as an example to other parks because some of the other ones, they don't get that steam train of support,” he said.
He said he believes the park will become a regional attraction.
“I can tell you this park will be used all the time — more than other sports facilities,” Hawk said. “I think it's going to live on — it's going to be a destination skatepark. People are going to come here as tourists just to see it.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.