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Sunday, Mar 01, 2015

Stewy’s stand could reopen soon


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Sean Cunningham believes he is the right man to re-energize Stewy’s Skate Park and has plenty of ideas to make the Spring Hill skateboard haven even better.

Hernando County will give him the chance after commissioners this week approved negotiating with the Brooksville man to run the concession stand at Pioneer Park, where Stewy’s is located.

Cunningham was one of three people who submitted bids to the county to run the stand. Jesse Burnett of Spring Hill dropped out of the running. His son, Mikal Burnett was removed from consideration after failing to respond to county requests for more information.

So even though Cunningham got the bid by default he still presented a strong submission package, passed a financial review and is a viable candidate, said Assistant County Administrator for General Services Russ Wetherington.

Wetherington said he will sit down with Cunningham to work out a rental lease and a menu.

Cunningham has already indicated he would do the job for $150 per month and plans to sell prepackaged foods, snacks and drinks. No microwave, grill or crock pots.

Cunningham said he and his children have attended Stewy’s for more than six years and has nothing but respect for the park and its patrons.

“For years, I have been a father figure to many of the kids who frequent the park,” Cunningham said in his application. “I have watched as many of them have grown to fine young men and women.”

Cunningham said he will personally give skateboard lessons on Saturday and Sunday, sell skateboard products, boards, wheels and bearings. There will be weekly night skates, events, contests and other activities — all with county approval, he said.

Cunningham said he has the backing of the Westside Skate Shop of Tarpon Springs. He plans to operate the concession on his own with no hired help. He will open the concession stand at 2 p.m. until close on weekdays and from noon until close on weekends, holidays, spring break and summer vacation.

“The park-stand will have adult supervision of someone who cares, not someone just trying to make a dollar,” he said.

He said the county would receive 20 percent of gross revenue for any event he charges admission and he will provide the proper insurance and liability coverage.

Wetherington said he is glad to have someone who seems dedicated to the park. At one point in the application process, it didn’t look like anyone would step forward.

In February 2012, Hernando County was forced to take back operation of Stewy’s Skate Park, at 6799 Pinehurst Drive, after the nonprofit organization that had handled it defaulted on its insurance.

The county found the skate park has been the target of vandals and has had to come out to clean up various messes.

County commissioners at one time had included Stewy’s on the list of possible park closings to help balance the budget. But the county was inundated with signatures on a petition hoping to keep the operation going.

Wetherington said he is pleased that park patrons may finally have a chance to buy drinks and snacks on-site.

Wetherington said he doesn’t expect a ton of revenue to come back to the county from the concession operation but any amount would help.

“It really just depends on final negotiations,” he said, adding he would negotiate a one-year lease with renewable clauses.

“It would be nice to get something out there for the people,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

Jordan Seibel, 10, and Noah Comella, 12, were pleased that Cunningham got the nod. They know him personally and he sold Comella his skate bearings.

“He’s done a lot (for the park).” Comella said. “I’d say he’s here every Saturday. I think he will be a good (concessionaire).”

Comella said he hopes Cunningham expands the skate park.

Seibel said Stewy’s is a second home for him and other kids in the area.

“It gives me a place to make new friends and hang out,” he said.

Seibel said he is glad the county is keeping the park open and keeping alive the memory of Stewy Abramowicz, who died in 2001 after a car struck him while he was riding a scooter.

“I’m sorry for Stewy and I’m glad everyone fulfilled his wish for a skate park,” Seibel said.

Connie Doughton, Comella’s grandmother, said the patrons will enjoy a cold drink when it gets hot.

“In the summer, it’s pretty brutal out there,” she said.

(352) 544-5290

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