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[With Video] Your community needs a BMX track—here’s why

June 14, 2018

A BMX track can be a great complement to athletic and recreation fields and continues to grow in popularity

By Mike McIntyre

Since it became an Olympic sport in 2008, the popularity of BMX racing has exploded. The Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report found that in America, participation in road or paved-surface biking has decreased by 6.2% during the past five years, and mountain biking and other non-paved surface riding has only increased by 0.9%. Meanwhile, BMX participation has jumped 43.2% over the same stretch of time.

Once relegated to the label as an “alternative sport,” today BMX has become a worldwide phenomenon, with tracks all over the globe and major international events including globe-trotting UCI BMX World Championships.

BMX has a new hub – The Novant Health BMX Supercross Track in Rock Hill, SC, which opened to the public in August. This former brownfield is now the first Olympic trial-worthy Bicycle Motocross Supercross race tracks in the country and will host the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships.

One of the great things about the BMX renaissance is the sport is not limited by age. Once the domain of teenagers, BMX competitions now include a wide range of generations, from 3-year-olds tottering around the track on pedal-less “strider” bikes to racers like Kittie Weston-Knauer, who at 69 is the oldest competitor in the sport. Yet despite the growth BMX has enjoyed, there still aren’t many places to practice. USA BMX, the world’s largest BMX racing organization, counts fewer than 400 sanctioned racetracks in the United States and Canada. 

BMX tracks … are the all-inclusive, revenue-generating, excitement-driven facility any community could, and should, consider.

The good news? This is beginning to change.

Many communities are finding that a BMX track can be a great complement to athletic and recreation fields, at a cost far more reasonable than one might expect. For around $3 million, a community can build a world-class Olympic-level track, suitable for hosting major events. And, a new community track could cost less than $1 million. There are ways to further bring that cost down by using existing infrastructure. For example, in South Knoxville, Tennessee, a football stadium at a middle school once sat idle, the concrete bleachers flanking an empty patch of grass. But that site is being transformed this year, as my team—the Action Sports Group—is working with that community to design and build a BMX track.

The starting hill at the Oldsmar BMX Track in Oldsmar, Florida.

For the investment, the community will not only have a new recreation option, but it is a facility that will generate revenue—talk about a win-win! Tracks generally charge approximately $10 for admittance during weekday open practice sessions, and on race days, they can charge fees in the range of $25 to $45 per rider, depending on the event level.

A track that is built to host large-scale national or international events can bring in serious revenue. In August 2017, Rock Hill, South Carolina, hosted the UCI BMX World Championships, the sport’s biggest event of the year. The competition brought 3,700 riders from 48 countries to the Novant Health Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track, which opened just three years earlier. City officials estimated that the World Championships added $19.2 million to the local economy—well over the $13 million they had projected—and an additional $10 million when you add in national and international travelers’ airfare.

The Rock Hill BMX facility is inviting for Olympic-caliber athletes and riders as young as 5.

If you build it, they will come

There are a few key pieces in constructing a BMX track. To create a facility large enough to draw people from beyond city limits, it requires at least 2 acres, but 4-5 acres is preferable. The site includes the track, as well as sufficient parking for daily use (a few hundred spaces) plus overflow for large-scale events. And support infrastructure is key. To handle the crowds, you’ll need restrooms, shade structures, picnic areas, and a spectator area comfortable for enjoying the sport (whether it’s a set of bleachers or an elevated berm overlooking the track).

To steal the sentiment from a certain baseball movie, if you build a high-quality facility, they (the riders) will come. BMX racers travel. While the recreational riders in a community might only go to their “home” track, those who are more serious about the sport will travel the country, or the globe, to find a new place to spin their wheels, much like golfers who travel to various courses that offer new and exciting challenges and differing levels of difficulty.

In August 2017, Rock Hill, South Carolina, hosted the UCI BMX World Championships, the sport’s biggest event of the year.

The appeal of BMX is wide-ranging. There’s a low bar to participate, usually the only required equipment is a bike and requisite safety gear. There’s also a long-established culture in the sport, which is seen in the camaraderie of the riders, their passion for a well-designed track, and even the clothing and music that accompany the sport. Most of all, where the rules of some sports limit the number of players who can participate at any given time, when you show up to a BMX track, you ride. As we often say, no one sits on the bench in BMX.

BMX tracks are no longer an afterthought or the “alternative sport” option. They are the all-inclusive, revenue-generating, excitement-driven activity any community could, and should, consider.

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