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‘I wanted it done for my little brother’: Skatepark named for fallen teen to reopen

Newly-renovated Matt Hughes Skate Park opens Saturday in Myrtle Beach

The newly-renovated Matt Hughes Skatepark will reopen Saturday in Myrtle Beach. The park is named for a Myrtle Beach teen who died while skateboarding in 1998. His sister, Noel Hughes, helped lead the project.
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The newly-renovated Matt Hughes Skatepark will reopen Saturday in Myrtle Beach. The park is named for a Myrtle Beach teen who died while skateboarding in 1998. His sister, Noel Hughes, helped lead the project.

When Noel Hughes first found out that city officials were considering renovating the Myrtle Beach skatepark named in her brother’s memory, she knew she had to learn more.

She attended a meeting at Pepper Geddings Recreation Center to hear what the city was considering.

“I was on board immediately,” she said.

The project that started that day will end Saturday with a ribbon-cutting for the revamped Matt Hughes Skatepark. Graffiti-covered wood and metal have been replaced with concrete, and a new gate features Matt’s name and initials prominently. The park includes a memorial to Matt and a bench made out of skate decks.

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A bench made of skateboard decks at the Matt Hughes Skate Park in Myrtle Beach. The park is named after Hughes, a skateboarder, who fell in 1998 while riding a street in Myrtle Beach; a fall that resulted in a major head injury, and ultimately, his death.

The reopening is years in the making, Hughes said. She’s spent that time hosting different fundraisers, from chilli cook-offs to auctions, to raise the money needed to get the park redone. The city also invested in the project, and Hughes said she’s working with the Tony Hawk Foundation to apply for a grant to add even more to the park.

The people she’s worked with have become important parts of her life.

“I’m very honored that they had the compassion to do this,” she said.

Hughes hopes the new-and-improved park will be special for the skateboarding community that was a big part of her brother’s life.

“They needed a new park,” she said.

Bonds within the close-knit skateboarding community helped make this project possible, Hughes said. The lead designer for the renovation, Jesse Clayton, was willing to come all the way from a different state. Clayton grew up in Pennsylvania, where his company 5th Pocket Skateparks is based, but his family used to vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Clayton said working on parks that honor someone who’s passed away is a unique experience.

“People have a lot of memories attached to that person,” he said. “It just adds a little more level of importance and care.”

Saturday’s event will feature professional skateboarders trying out the new park. Hughes will speak alongside Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and other city officials. The all-day event will include a moment of silence in Matt’s honor.

Matt died from complications from a skateboarding injury in 1998 when he was 16 years old.

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A memorial at the Matt Hughes Skate Park in Myrtle Beach. The park is named after Hughes, a skateboarder, who fell in 1998 while riding a street in Myrtle Beach; a fall that resulted in a major head injury, and ultimately, his death.

Seeing the completed park for the first time will be bittersweet, Hughes said, but she’s grateful for the chance to give back to the community in Matt’s name.

“I just wanted my brother’s legacy to live on,” she said. “ I wanted it done for my little brother.”

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