It was a day that was decades in the making and one that many wondered if it would ever arrive but finally, last Friday afternoon, one global pandemic later, and after years and years of campaigning and untold hard work behind the scenes, Tralee’s long awaited skate park was officially opened by the Mayor of Tralee, Cllr Mikey Sheehy who described it as “a really special day for Tralee”.
Aptly named ‘Ox Park’ after the late, great Tralee native and skateboarding enthusiast and avid campaigner for the amenity, Bruce ‘The Ox’ Kelliher, who was originally from Ard na Lí in Oakpark and who passed away earlier this year, the opening was attended by Bruce’s family.
The opening of the new €200,000 facility – which was full to the brim with kids and teenagers – at the Tralee Sports Complex was a joyous, if not poignant occasion, and this was reflected in the many speeches given at the opening as everyone – including Bruce's brother Graham, who spoke on behalf of the family – reflected on Bruce’s life and legacy.
"Now Bruce, as many people time and time before have mentioned, was a gentleman and he was the best of us. He would be thrilled to bits with this park but it's not the type of thing he would have welcomed himself if you know what I mean. He never liked the limelight, he just did his thing, got on with everybody and loved skating along with all the other sports that we all did,” he said.
"When we were asked a couple of weeks ago, as a family, if it was okay to name the park after Bruce and the suggestion was 'Ox Park', we were thrilled to bits. It sounds much better than Bruce Kelliher Skatepark and so 'Ox Park' just works,” said Graham, adding that the nickname of ‘Ox’ was given to Bruce due to his sharing the same “aggressive” and “on the edge” style of skating as 80’s American skater Pete 'The Ox' Colpitts.
Going on, Graham said that Bruce would be over the moon to see a skatepark finally open in Tralee and especially in a location so close to his family home and a place that he would have frequented many times in his youth.
"As a Kelliher family, we grew up about 200 metres from here and spent an awful lot of time down here in this neck of the woods on various wheeled items so having it here, so close to where we grew up and it being named after Bruce, it is fantastic. He would be delighted to see it being used by all ages, all different styles of wheeled craft, so we're thrilled as a family,” he continued.
Justin McCarthy, who along with Billy Downes, were two of the driving forces behind the renewed campaign for a park in Tralee, also spoke at Friday’s official opening ceremony and said it was amazing to see so many young people out enjoying the facility and that it was an honour to be a part of remembering Bruce in this way.
"It's absolutely fantastic to see so many people here but most especially, it's great to see all the kids inside using the park because that's who it's for, it's for the next generation who can grow up with something that I would have loved back in my day,” he said.
"He [Bruce] was a legend in his own right and having the opportunity to name the park after Bruce is just fantastic. We're delighted that we've been able to do this and we're so happy that the Kelliher family were so on board. To Graham and to Bruce's wife, Michelle and his boys, Ruben, Mason and Archie, who allowed us to name the park after Bruce, it's a real honour and we thank you so much for that. It means so much to us as a skateboard community,” he finished.
Funding was provided from the Sports Capital Programme, the Leader Programme and Kerry County Council and work commenced in April 2022. The project was supported by significant local fundraising.