Teenagers skate-boarding -- rather dangerously -- in the streets is a common sight. You can’t blame them much because there are no proper places for skating -- formally called ‘rinks’ -- in the city. The one skating rink in the entire Lahore is to be found in Gulshan Iqbal Park.
National Bank Park, close to Kalma Chowk, had a properly laid out skating rink but the place has been closed for over six months now.
According to Zahid Iqbal, Assistant Director, National Bank Park, the rink was shut for public after the park’s contract expired. The PHA has since been looking for a new contractor.
"The PHA invited a tender but no bidder showed up," he says. "The Authority will again invite a tender for the rink contract."
Talking to TNS, Gulshan Iqbal Park contractor and skating trainer Sunny says, "I don’t think the government needs huge funds and a large piece of land to build skating rinks on. If the PHA could build tracks for wheelers at Jallo, why can they not lay out courts for skating in the parks?
"When you have proper skating rinks, the youth shall not take to the streets and put their lives in jeopardy."
There is a rub. As Sunny puts it, the skating business experiences a period of lull before and during the course of school/college exams, "in which case, they won’t go to the rinks and it will become difficult for us to pay the contract fee to the PHA."
The contractors are not interested in the National Bank Park skating rink for the very same reason, he says. "We charge only Rs20 per hour from those who bring their own skating shoes and Rs20 for a 15-minute game from those who we have to provide the skating shoes with."
Mostly, the rink contractors are trainers and they like to go to posh schools rather than running a skating rink on contract.
In response to a query, Sunny says, "Skating is a healthy game but I must say kids should not be allowed to indulge it before they have received proper training for it. Unfortunately, we hear stories of kids who got head and leg injuries of different sorts, only because they took to the streets untrained.
"If you ask me, skating on the roads where you also have traffic going on, is highly unwanted and even the expert skaters may go wrong."
It is interesting to note that skating as a sport is not promoted by the government, even though it does not require a huge infrastructure. President, Pakistan Skating Association (PSA), and Deputy Director, Public Relations, PHA, Javaid Shaida says, "Two years ago, the PHA arranged a skating competition at Gulshan Iqbal Park in which teams from Hong Kong and Thailand also took part. The Authority hopes to build two new skating rinks in Johar Town and Township.
"The PHA is all for promotion of local and international games and maintaining parks, though it does not have recourse to as many funds as the Punjab Sports Board does. That is precisely why we have not seen skating competitions on a regular basis."
It may be relevant to mention here that the PHA set up a dirt motorbike track at Jallo to discourage one-wheeling on the roads. The dirt motorbike track had all the safety measures for the sport lovers but they never bothered to use the track. Shaida fears something like this would happen if skating rinks are built at all. "Youngsters would still like to go roaring on the roads," he says.
A skating lover who frequently visits the National Bank Part at Kalma Chowk says, "We are charged Rs500 for a week if we also take training and Rs300 a week if we use the skating rink only. I believe the amount charged should be much less because a majority of youth who go skate-boarding on the roads come from poor backgrounds and may not have the money to pay the fees.
"If the government really means to check the young skaters from plying on the streets, it should build skating rinks at public parks," he says.