Brian Schaefer

Skatepark of Tampa Founder

click to enlarge Brian Schaefer - Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Brian Schaefer

Brian Schaefer is the owner and founder of Skatepark of Tampa (SPoT), a treasured mecca for skateboarders on the fringes of downtown Tampa. He opened the park 21 years ago in the most grassroots way possible — by moving with his friends into a big scary warehouse on an industrial stretch of East Columbus Drive and slowly but steadily converting it into a multifaceted skatepark.
SPoT is like the Mall of America of skateparks. It boasts a retail shop, indoor and outdoor courses with terrain park-style obstacles, bleachers, a well-loved bowl, offices, a snack bar, a lounge and a stockroom for SPoT’s massive inventory of shoes and apparel.
Schaefer, a 42-year-old Brandon native, is the perpetually scruffy heart and soul behind the operation. Over the last two decades he and his loyal band of skatepark staffers have elevated the dingy warehouse into the kind of rock star skating destination that attracts the likes of Tony Hawk. (The park is featured in Tony Hawk’s Underground and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 video games.)
The park’s success has spawned documentary films, long features on, a high-profile professional skateboarding competition (Tampa Pro), a string of local retail stores, a bar and restaurant (The Bricks) in Ybor City, and custom Nikes. (Nike released its SPoT x Nike SB Dunk Low in 2013 to commemorate the park’s 20th anniversary.)
Schaefer, who lives in Ybor City, is so married to the skatepark and the company’s nearby sister businesses that you’ll seldom see him venture further than downtown Tampa.
Says Schaefer, “I live three blocks from The Bricks and three miles from the skatepark. I have very little reason to leave my zone.”
Where he goes for a cold one: New World Brewery . “It’s good people, community-driven and hospitality at its finest. The staff is educated on the beer. They serve you what you’re looking for.”

Where he goes for a craft cocktail: The Bricks of Ybor. “We’ve got a full liquor bar, fun events and the kind of food that appeals to everyone from a 2-year-old to a grandma. That’s right, The Bricks is for grandmas, too.”

Where he goes to camp out with a coffee and his computer: Tre Amici@The Bunker. “It’s off the beaten path. It’s a quiet little spot. The Internet works good and it’s comfortable.”

Where everybody knows his name: Brocato’s Sandwich Shop. “That’s my lunch spot. They know everybody from the skate park. I’ve been going there for 20 years. I get the turkey on Cuban bread with devil crabs.”

Where he wishes he ate more often: Anise Global Gastrobar. “It’s owned and operated by Kevin and Xuan [Hurt]. They are hardworking, sincere and have great integrity and food.”

Where he goes to hang with his best friend: Picnic Island Beach Dog Park. “It’s one of the best undiscovered places in Tampa. You could back up a Coors Light beer commercial truck with beer girls and throw a raging party and no one would care. You find your own part of the beach and just let your dog run. It’s where we [he and Knuckles, his German shepherd] go to unwind.”

A Bay area must-do on his bucket list: Biking the Pinellas Trail from start to finish. “You cut through a lot of different geographical areas. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d love it.”

Where he takes new visitors: On a tour of downtown Tampa. “My route begins in Ybor City because it’s my home. I give them the Channelside, Bayshore, Hyde Park drive-by, and then I rip through downtown.”

Where he rides outside of Tampa: Bradenton Riverwalk Skatepark. “It’s on the water and it has every discipline of skateboarding from beginners to veterans.”

Where he goes to warm up: The Bro Bowl. “It’s less than a mile from my house. It’s an easy warm-up. There are no pads, no rules. It’s a big free cement bowl that was built in the projects in the 1970s.”

Where he goes for a view: Top of the Ybor City parking garage. “Tampa is so flat, so it’s almost impossible to get a bird’s-eye view. That’s my favorite thinking spot. It’s behind the Ritz. You see downtown and Port Tampa.”

Where he goes to escape Ybor: Postcard Inn on the Beach. “I tend to stick within a three-block radius of where I live, so I’m always down to stay anywhere in St. Pete. It’s easy. It’s simple. You can be loud and you can bring your dog. It’s still got that Howard Johnson foundation with a few bells and whistles, and the attitude is just right.”


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