Activist: Bro Bowl demolition to start next week

click to enlarge SKATE ON: Edwin Velez skates the Bro Bowl in 2013. - nick nicks
nick nicks
SKATE ON: Edwin Velez skates the Bro Bowl in 2013.

Tampa Bay area skateboarders could have one more weekend to traverse the historic Bro Bowl.

The popular skating area, located within Perry Harvey, Sr. Park just north of Downtown Tampa, will reportedly be dismantled starting Tuesday, Shannon Bruffett tells us. He heads the Tampa chapter of the Skateboarding Heritage Foundation and has skated there since he was 16. Bruffett, who successfully led the charge to get the Bro Bowl on the National Register of Historic Places, said he heard the news earlier this week during a stakeholder meeting.

The city is renovating the park, which sits next to the Encore Tampa mixed-use development project, and has said the facility, in its current location, doesn't fit with its plan.

Bruffett said workers will start mark up the Bro Bowl Monday — some pieces will be salvaged and brought to local museums — and will begin dismantling it on Tuesday.

“I figured anybody who might want to go by and pay their last respects and ... cry a few tears [would want to know],” Bruffett said.

The park overhaul will serve largely as an homage to the area's rich African-American history. Central Avenue, where it sits, was home to a stretch of nightclubs in which the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles performed. The call to preserve the Bro Bowl, which was built in the late 1970s, was met with apparent grassroots opposition from the surrounding community. WTSP's Mike Deeson later reported that records suggest a key Bro Bowl opponent, respected community activist Fred Hearns, was being paid by the developer (and the city) to advocate for its demolition.

With the demolition imminent, Bruffett said the impending loss of the landmark hasn't hit him yet.

“I guess Im still kind of in a state of shock... kind of numb to it all," he said. “What do you say when one of your loved ones is about to pass? You don't really feel the pain until it happens.”

The city did compromise with the bowl's proponents and will build a larger skating area at the park's northern end. USF's Alliance for Integrated Spacial Technologies has done a laser scan that will allow the city to replicate the Bro Bowl's topography somewhere within it.

“I think it's a pretty suitable location," Bruffett said. “It's probably the best compromise, the best alternative.” 

The facility's moguls — the humps scattered through the bowl — will also go on display at the new park. Other remnants from the landmark will be added to collections at the Tampa Bay History Center and USF.

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