PILSEN — Brian Kachinsky was just 14 years old when he built his first skate park in his hometown of Neenah, Wis.
Now, the 30-year-old professional BMX bike rider is trying to do it again. This time, he’s aiming for Pilsen, the place he lives when he isn’t traveling around the world for biking events.
“It was a way different animal back then,” he said. “It was such a smaller town and there’s not as many hoops to jump through as there is in a big city like Chicago.”
Last week, Kachinsky met with Ald. Danny Solis (25th) to propose a skate park at the defunct Fisk Coal Plant at 1111 W. Cermak. The alderman was receptive to the idea, but said he thought the empty lot under the Dan Ryan Expressway at 16th Street might have better potential.
Solis also said he would look into funding for the park.
If approved, the skate part would also be a Chicago public park and would be free and open to the public.
There was a potential South Loop skate park proposed in May 2011 at 18th Street and Clark, but according to Solis’ ward office, residents in the area disapproved of the project’s high price tag and the project was shut down.
But Kachinsky said he wants to try again to provide a park for both the Pilsen community and downtown Chicago, an area Kachinsky said is underserved in the way of skate parks.
“For being a world-class city, it’s a little bit short on the action sports side,” he said. “There are other cities nowhere near the size of Chicago that have even better facilities open to the public.
Currently, the skate park closest to downtown is at Ninth Street and Columbus Drive. However, Chris Currier, a manager at Windward Boardshop at 3317 N. Clark, called the Grant Park spot “really, really, really small" and said he "wouldn’t even call it a skate park. It has like two features you can skate on. I don’t even think most people know it’s there.”
And Currier, a 29-year-old Lakeview resident who’s been skating for 16 years, said both the Grant Park and a skate park at Wilson and Lake Shore Drive are uncovered, meaning there is no protection from the elements during the winter months.
But if Kachinsky gets his way, the Pilsen skate park will be under the Dan Ryan Expressway to keep bikers dry and allow them to potentially do tricks even in the winter.
“I’ve definitely ridden the skate parks here in town in January before. It did require a bit a bundling up,” he said.
Fernando Nieto, who opened Headlinerz skate shop in Pilsen in 2010, agreed there is a definite need for a skate park in the area.
"A skate park in Pilsen would be epic," said Nieto, 23, a lifelong Pilsen resident. "There's a lot of skaters in the area. I never knew there was this many skaters until we opened up."
Kachinsky said he feels it’s his duty as a Chicagoan to provide a biking and skating venue to all those in need of a good ramp or rail to ride.
"I felt like it’s my responsibility being a professional rider representing Chicago, representing the Midwest, to get a project like this going,” he said.