The City of Turlock celebrated the grand opening of the new Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park on Saturday with a ribbon cutting ceremony that remembered Koch’s legacy as a tremendous skateboarder and friend to the community.
“He was an ambassador to the entire city,” said Koch’s aunt, Judith Suliman. “Over 2,000 people wanted this park named after him and if anyone deserved it, it was him.”
The skate park’s new name came in 2012, a year after the avid skateboarder passed away from adrenocortical cancer. When Koch’s doctors informed the family there wasn’t much hope for the 26-year-old to recover, it was Suliman who came up with the idea to get the city’s skate park named after him.
“If he could see the park now, I think he would have said he’s outdone himself,” said Suliman. “It’s a great tribute to a person who would walk into a room full of strangers and leave with a room full of friends.”
Koch was an advocate for skateboarding as a way to get young people to participate in an active lifestyle, and was remembered by his friend Zach Wagner for his love of helping others.
“I just like to keep Brandon in my heart when I come here and just teach the little kids and enjoy it with everyone,” said Wagner.
The park’s grand opening was an event nearly three years in the making. It was decided by the Turlock City Council in August of 2013 that the skate park would relocate from Starr Avenue to Donnelly Park due to the sale of the land the park originally sat on, and since construction on the skate park began last summer, the opening date was pushed back multiple times before eventually being completed in August.
“I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth, addressing the small crowd of friends, family and skateboarders that gathered to honor the new park and Koch. “If you look behind me today the park is even better than it was on Starr Avenue and I think Brandon would be very excited.”
Local retailer Sewn Up Clothing sponsored the grand opening event, and the Turlock Police Department was on hand to give away free helmets and safety gear to skaters.
“We hope that Brandon Koch’s family is proud of it and we hope to have honored him in a great way with this new facility,” said Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder.
Along with Suliman and Wagner, Koch’s mother Jean Koch, friend George Fagundes and sister Nicke Koch were present for the ceremony.
“I know that he’s here smiling, probably wishing he could skate this amazing park,” said Nicke Koch.
The new skate park’s design includes some elements from the old park and includes rails, stairs and manual pads. Through the incorporation of different aspects of parks around the region, the new skate park offers skaters a unique experience. It offers 28 skating elements, with most centered around the street style skating that Koch enjoyed. A feature of the park meant to pay tribute to Koch are the cookies that decorate the concrete in some areas – a nod to Koch’s nickname.
Amid recent complaints of bullying at the new skate park, Wagner took his opportunity at the podium to remind the crowd how Koch would have wanted the park to be a place that everyone can enjoy.
“The number one thing everyone needs to work on here is common respect for everybody, no matter what your age, what you ride or what’s going on,” he said to applause. “That’s the only thing I ask for Brandon.”