In order to tell this story accurately we need to take a trip back to 1974. A speedway was opened up in Coos Bay Oregon, called Ken-Kel Park. This was a major racing facility that was constructed by a guy called Melvin Spaghts. This place actually still exists today, yet it is called the Coos Bay Speedway. So for years Ken-Kel Park was the scene for a variety of motor shows. At the same time interest was growing by another business owner in North Bend, Oregon, a guy called Rod Maney, he owned a bicycle shop, "Babe-O's", yet took an interest in skateboarding. Influenced by some kids that were coming into his bike shop asking if he sold skateboards. This sparked an idea for Rod and he started selling skateboards. It was not long after this that Rod began organising local skateboarding contests, some of these local competitions were gathering around 300 - 400 spectators.
Rod would eventually start attracting not only locals to these competitions, but out-of-towners also started competing. When reading through the number of articles dated towards the start of 1977, it looks like Rod would organise these tournaments anywhere where there was free space, including local high schools and mall car parks. This is where he would discover the popularity for the spot and also give birth to the idea of creating the first concrete skatepark in Oregon, "Speed World". Below is an article from May 1977 in The World Newspaper, mentioning that sidewalk surfing stardom being backed by Rod Maney.
Speed World was the first concrete skatepark to be build in Oregon, yet on our travels researching this place, it was brought to our attention that the world's first skatepark was actually opened in Oregon on the 1st of July 1965. This place was called the Albany Skateboard Centre. This skatepark or skate track was a 600 foot wooden track that was built on stilts above the ground, which kind of looks like a boardwalk. It was a design concept that the creators were looking to sell as a type of package prototype. This was actually an eye opener for us as we were under the impression that Surf City in Tucson was the first skatepark, yet this was opened on the 3rd of September 1965.
Fast forward to 1977 Melvin Spaghts, owner of Ken-Kel park and Rod Maney strike a deal, and the Speed World Skateboard Park was opened, which was located on the grounds of Ken-Kel park. Opened early June 1977 the skatepark consisted of a bowl that was in the shape of a horseshoe, in the centre there was this bank transition that would allow you to roll between both sides of the horse shoe. At the steepest part of the bowl there was a 6’ vert section. Now there is pretty much zero documentation of Speed World, but you can check out the video below taken during 1998. There was also a Slalom track that was setup, which was also used as a go-kart track.
During 1977 there were a few skateboard contests that were held at Speed World. The only one that we can find documented was during the 2nd and 3rd of July 1977, which was called the Northwest Skateboard Tournament. Some people that I reached out to over social media said it was called the West Coast Skateboard Championship. I am pretty sure they are talking about the same competition. There are a few mentions of it also being called the West Coast Skateboarding Championship in some other newspaper advertisements, yet at any rate it was hosted by Russ Howell a freestyle champion that is now in the skateboarding hall of fame. The competition included freestyle, slalom, bowl riding, high jump, long jump, consecutive 360s, long distance riding and four-man relays.
Apart from these few competitions, we have been informed that there was a competition that was sponsored by Pepsi held at Speed World, although in general documentation of this place is really scarce.
Despite its success during it opening a the brief years that it was open, it all came crashing down as a kid snuck into the park after hours and managed to break his arm in the horseshoe bowl, after the incident the kids family decided to sue Ken-Kal park. Not long after this event, the skatepark shut and the bowl was filled in with wood and metal to prevent anyone else from sustaining further injuries. We are unsure of what year this was, but judging from the lack of information and articles that are published on this place after we are guessing that it was either the mid to end of 78 or 79 that Speed World was closed.
You have to feel for Rod Maney, when we were researching this place, his excitement and just general love for the sport of skateboarding really shines though. He was quite proud of what we had created at Speed World. In some of the articles he mentions just spending days at the park with his wife and admiring skateboarding. He makes mention numerous times of the respect he has for skateboarders and the level of difficulty it takes to ride. It seems like he was a really good advocate for the sport back in its early days and to have the park shut in this fashion really does not do justice to the work that he put into the sport.
Following the park's closure its history is again very hazy. It seems like there were people that would still sneak into this place and skate, and judging by from the only video of Speed World that was shot in 1998 it was totally cleared out at periods, as the bowl was very rideable towards the end of the 90’s. We tried jumping onto Google Earth and checking the aerial shots of this place going back to the 80’s. A lot of the historical aerials are really bad quality until you hit around 2004, then you can still see that the bowl is visible. So we are guessing that from at least 98 - 04 there were periods that this place was rideable. Today it is totally filled in; you can, however, still see the go-kart track which they used for slalom, yet the bowl is buried underground. It would be really interesting to know if this could still be salvageable. At any rate, this spot and its history are so valuable, and to meet its end in this way is a really sad story.
If you have any information or media related to Speed World we would love for you to contact us!