Winnipeg skaters have recently found themselves at a sort of moral crossroads. Over the past few years, local skateboarders have accused The Edge Skatepark, located in the Youth for Christ (YFC) Activity Centre on King Street, of discriminatory hiring practices and other non-inclusive measures.
In January 2021, The Uniter reported that YFC’s employment contract contained language specifically excluding 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. The Edge, which remains open and was once Winnipeg’s only indoor skate park, also prohibits skaters over the age of 17.
“Obviously, we all know they’re a bit of a discriminatory organization, and a lot of my friends were not welcome,” Lyndsey Wallis says.
Wallis is the lead of the events and fundraising committee for the Manitoba Skateboarding Coalition (MSC), a recently registered non-profit organization.
When she joined the MSC in November 2022, Wallis and the group were dissatisfied with the state of indoor skating in a city with inhospitable, let alone skateable, weather for most of the year. Without any government grants or headline-crashing philanthropic donations, they took action, and the resulting brainstorm led to what is now Pitikwé Skatepark.
“We wanted to create a place where everybody was welcome, everybody felt comfortable,” Wallis says.
The newly opened park, located inside Portage Place, aims to be a place where all skateboarders, roller-skaters and scooter-ers are welcome.
“Pitikwé means ‘come in,’ and we welcome anyone to our door. You don’t even have to skate. You can just come in and watch or hang out,” Philip Rosario, a volunteer and Pitikwé board member, says. “I think it will make downtown feel more alive as well. It’s all volunteer-based, not-for-profit.”
Wallis and Rosario cite the support of local businesses, generous donors and the community in general for the funds put up for the construction, along with a successful GoFundMe campaign. Pitikwé was built without government grants or financial aid. The support the team received for the project was a welcome surprise.
“Working with the City, it’s going to be a multi-year process. That’s still the big dream here. We’d love the City to take over,” Wallis says.
After a connection suggested the former Staples building as a staging ground following the vacancy of The Rolling Stones’ Unzipped Expo, the Pitikwé team knew they had struck geographical gold.
“We thought it was perfect. It’s central and a place that needs to be activated again. It was really cool to see everyone hear this idea and say ‘This is what the city needs, and we’re going to help you do it,’” Wallis says.
Well aware of the uncertain future of Portage Place, including new Premier Wab Kinew’s promise for major renovations, the people who put Pitikwé together are just happy to be there.
“We don’t have the mindset that this is going to be a permanent thing. This is just a pilot project, and if it works out well, we’ll see what happens in the next chapter,” Wallis says.
For Wallis, the promise of inclusive skating for the immediate future is more than enough.
“This gets me feeling a little bit emotional ... watching all my friends come in and seeing them light up, it made all the stress and all of the crap that we had to deal with all worth it,” she says.
“You might be scared, but just know that the people around you want you there. They want you there more than anything.”
Published in Volume 78, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2023)