After years of wooden ramps and homemade obstacles, Montclair’s skate community now has something a little more permanent.

Rand Park opened two more of its tennis courts to skateboarding this month. But this time, the space comes with some extra pizazz. On top of the painted lines of the old tennis court are eight sculptures, in bright colors and geometric shapes.

Designed by Olympian Alexis Sablone, who visited the park on Feb. 6, the sculptures are made to be skated.

“I wanted each one to be unique and not something that I’d seen before,” Sablone said, “to make it call into question, ‘Is it a skate park or is it a sculpture garden?’”

Xavier Harris, who skates at the courts, said the park has come a long way. A 2017 Montclair High School graduate, he remembers the days when skaters hid their equipment in the bushes by the courts.

“Before all this was here, it was, like, just one rail and a ramp,” Harris said. 

Of the new sculptures, he already has a favorite: a concrete wedge, with a red rail on top that looks like an upside-down checkmark.

Max Shaw, 11, skates a sculpture in Rand Park on the opening day.
Max Shaw, 11, skates a sculpture in Rand Park on the opening day.

The launch comes after years of advocacy by Montclair skaters. After a campaign by Montclair High School students, the Township Council voted in early 2020 to turn two tennis courts into a temporary skate park. Since then, skaters have set up wooden ramps and other DIY obstacles in the courts.

Sablone’s skateable sculptures, nicknamed “Candy Courts,” were the next step.

Skate Essex, a nonprofit that supports the Rand Park skate area, worked with the Olympic skater on the project. Skate Essex trustees Paul King and Jamie Siwinski came up with the idea after seeing a sculpture she designed in Malmö, Sweden. 

King reached out to Sablone, who lives in Brooklyn, and they discussed creating a project for Montclair. These are Sablone’s first skateable sculptures in the United States, King said.

The vision, Siwinski said, was to make something artistic that blended into the environment. 

Siwinski, a Montclair High School teacher and adviser to the school’s Skateboard Club, brought Sablone’s initial drawings to the students for feedback. 

From left, Alexis Sablone architect and Olympic skater, speaks with Skate Essex trustees Jamie Siwinksi and Paul King.
From left, Alexis Sablone architect and Olympic skater, speaks with Skate Essex trustees Jamie Siwinksi and Paul King.

The $55,000 project was paid for by community fundraising and grants, King said. Skate Essex collected $30,000 through local fundraising work, including a sold-out 2021 event that featured a conversation with Sablone. The rest of the cost was covered by a grant from The Skatepark Project, formerly known as the Tony Hawk Foundation.

“All the other parks, tennis courts, basketball courts and baseball fields and things are built using taxpayer money,” King said. “And we're proud to say we were able to do this on our own.”

Paige Wharton, 27, was happy to see Montclair get a skate park – something that other towns don’t have. A skater herself, Wharton lives in New York. But she often spends time in Montclair, where her partner lives. 

“It’s good to have a space where kids can come after school and actually do an outside activity instead of being on electronics,” Wharton said.

As for the new sculptures, she hasn’t gotten a chance to try them. Wharton said she’s more of a transition skater – a style that uses ramps. Many of the new skate elements are composed of ledges and rails.

“This side of this park, the original park, seems to be more transition stuff, and then that side’s the street side,” she said, referencing another skate style. 

But she anticipates that the new skate area will free up more space on the DIY courts, and looks forward to trying a few of the sculptures, too.

“That little pimple that has the rail going down,” Wharton said, “I’m excited to try it when there’s less people around.”

Seth Kaplan, 21, said that the buzz around Sablone’s sculptures has drawn new people to the park.

“Alexis is a known pro,” Kaplan said. “So people are seeing this online, and this is their reason to come to Montclair.”

As for Sablone, she’s glad to see people skating the sculptures – sometimes in ways she hadn’t envisioned.

“I feel like I've been staring at my little models of it for so long, and it’s really rewarding to see them here built to scale and to see people having fun on them,” she said.