Walking through the city towards Streetmekka, I was overtaken by two teenagers on scooters. And just a couple of minutes later, I found myself outside Esbjerg’s new street paradise: Streetmekka.
The round courtyard and the covered skate park at one end are full of young people whizzing about on scooters and skateboards. Opposite the skate park is the main building where in exchange for a membership card or a ten kronerentrance fee, you can use the basketball courts, skate hall and dance studio. The main building also has a great common room with table and chairs. Shower facilities are in place for the more active.
Right at the heart of this construction, in an office with glass walls, is the Streetmekka team, the people in charge. Streetmekka’s manager, Jannie Mai Vesti, welcomes me with a warm smile.
– Yes it’s been full steam ahead since we opened on January 6, she says her proud gaze falling on the throng of young people outside.
A different type of sport
Streetmekka was created together with the non-profit organisation GAME and Esbjerg Municipality. Here children and young people of all ages can take part in street sports such as basketball, football, skating, scooting, parkour, dance and graffiti art. Common to all the activities is that they are less streamlined than traditional sports.
– Streetmekka encourages free play and therefore differs to sports clubs. We are trying to create a place where children can meet across ethnic and religious groups. Young people call Streetmekka a ‘free space’ between school, after-school clubs and sports clubs. My personal hope is that Streetmekka helps grow young people’s creativity and enthusiasm for sport, says Jannie.
Users of Streetmekka
Streetmekka was built on Esbjerg’s former depot plot, where historical buildings have been retained with their original graffiti and the turntable in the middle. But even the brand new facilities ooze authenticity. The entire
area is asphalted; even the indoor facilities and staff offices – and the whole area buzzes with life.
On the tiny pana football pitch, a miniature pitch in asphalt, a mother and three kids are battling to get the small ball into the small goals, and wherever you go in the building, there’s someone on a scooter; young people scootering up ramps and doing tricks. Between the dance studio and basketball court, a group of young people are talking on
a multi-layered bench. Naturally, the bench has in-built sockets, so they can easily charge their mobiles.
Non-profit organisation GAME was founded in 2002 in Copenhagen as a preventative inclusion project. GAME Streetmekka Esbjerg opened on 6 January 2016, as the first GAME Streetmekka outside Copenhagen. A membership to GAME Streetmekka Esbjerg costs DKK 300 a year, and includes free access to all activities, including skating, scooting, parkour, calestenic pana football, streetfit, dance, basketball, street football, graffiti
and street art.
There’s no doubt the place is in full use. And will continue to be. In the first 6 weeks, Streetmekka gained 1000 members across a wide range of ages.
– We have members who are just two years old who come to scooter or watch. We also have skaters and graffiti artists right up to in their 40s, and entire families who have joined so that parents can join in at weekends,
On a normal weekday, Streetmekka has approx. 200 users – and even more at weekends. And it’s clear to see it’s the users who have made the place what it is. Prior to the opening, the city’s young people attended a workshop to help define and create their Streetmekka. They built the stools around the tables in the common room, for example.
– We have a very user-driven approach. When young people come and tell us they want a birthday party concept, a BMX track or some new tools, then we listen, says Jannie, just as we’re interrupted by the smith who has come to put up a new parkour frame, as requested by some of the kids.
The new street sports park is set to expand this summer, to include outdoor green areas with benches and facilities such as basketball courts and football pitches. Meanwhile, there will be a wide range of summer events in store, such as Friday tournaments, street soccer caravans and city championship in graffiti art.