Rolling With New Trends

As the sport has grown, more communities are adding BMX tracks to their parks and recreation facilities. Photo Courtesy Of: USA BMX

As the sport has grown, more communities are adding

BMX tracks to their parks and recreation facilities.

Photo Courtesy Of: USA BMX

In the last decade, “wheel-friendly” parks and plazas have exploded across the country, whether intended for bikes, skateboards, or both. Skateparks in particular are showing up in communities from St. Cloud, Minn., to Poplar Bluff, Mo., as more parks departments realize the benefits of dedicating public space to individualized action-sport activities. 

The action-sport landscape now has another under-realized newcomer gaining ground in public parks: sanctioned BMX race tracks. Until recently and much like skateboarding, BMX racing had little public awareness as a “sport,” leading many municipal parks departments to assume it appealed only to small groups. But with the Olympics having successfully added BMX racing to its docket in the 2008 Beijing Games, awareness—as well as demand for facilities—is on the rise.

From Humble Beginnings

BMX, an abbreviation of “bicycle motocross,” got its start in the early 1970s in the birthplace of action sports: Southern California. By 1977 the American Bicycle Association—now under the name USA BMX—was established as the official sanctioning body for the sport. For the next three decades, particularly as the X Games grew in the late 1990s, the sport became more popular but never rose to a “mainstream” level.

“BMX has been a sport of peaks and valleys,” says Nick Adams, Director of Business and New Track Development at USA BMX. “It would seem to get its legs and then plateau for several years.”

Then came the 2008 Olympics. “The advent of BMX in the Olympics has changed the face and culture of the sport,” Adams says. “In addition to the Olympics, BMX is now on college campuses throughout the U.S., and the amount of new facilities being developed to support this growth has been incredible.”

Taking Notice

Cities and towns across the country are now starting to realize the untapped potential of BMX in their communities—for a number of reasons:

1. Momentum. With more people exposed to the sport, more interest is stirring, particularly for nontraditional sports that appeal to all ages. “Parks and recreation directors and city officials see the need for programming that differs from the traditional stick-and-ball sports,” Adams says. “Children as young as 2 through adults in their 70s are racing BMX.”

2. Organization. Unlike skateboarding, BMX racing is an organized, competitive activity with a point system, rankings, and a sanctioning body Included in that organization are insurance, administrative support, expert resources, other guidance, and assurance for communities interested in adding a BMX track to their offerings.

3. Revenue. Because BMX racing hinges on competitive events, there is built-in revenue opportunity for track owners and operators. The fees for events and practice time are typically enough to maintain and operate the park, often with some money left over. Added to that are the intangible benefits that hosting larger-scale events at a track can bring—from out-of-towners visiting local businesses and restaurants to increased need for lodging—and these tracks have the potential to be major economic drivers.

The City of DeSoto, Texas, recognized this potential when officials set aside funding for a BMX track. Since the Metroplex opened in 1999, the number of hotels in the area has doubled, and the city saw its return on the investment in just a few years.

Taking Shape

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