Rock Hill’s plan to build a BMX Supercross race track for bicycles at Rock Hill’s Riverwalk will be relatively cheap, fast to build and potentially very lucrative. What’s not to like?
City council members this month unanimously approved a plan to borrow $6.5 million to pay for the project, which will include a $1 million Olympic-caliber BMX track, a $1.5 million concession stand and restroom, a new access road costing about $823,000, and recreational and multipurpose fields costing about $928,000.
The city has been talking about a BMX track since 2008 as part of a larger plan to develop Riverwalk near the former site of the Celanese plant. The track would complement the Giordana Velodrome, the banked concrete bicycle racing track that already has been the site of world-class races, and other sporting and recreational projects at Riverwalk.
Work on the track is expected to begin this summer, with completion projected for February.
The project won’t result in a tax increase. About 20 percent has been paid for, and the rest of the loan will be paid back with money from the city’s hospitality tax, the 2 percent levy on hotel rooms and restaurant meals.
For the next 20 years, the city will use about $450,000 a year from the hospitality tax to pay back the loan. That makes the investment relatively painless for city residents, and visitors who stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants will contribute through the hospitality tax.
And the track, itself, will attract more visitors. USA BMX, the sport’s national organization, has promised that once it’s built, the track each year will host two state championships, one regional championship and one national event.
City officials estimate that, in all, the track will be the site of 34 BMX races a year, which could draw up to 30,000 visitors annually.
BMX – short for bicycle motocross – is a race for up to eight riders on a serpentine dirt track with banked sides and various jumps along the route. Bikes specially built for the sport routinely go airborne off the jumps during the race.
This is a growing sport appealing to both men and women, children and adults. While the pros range in age from 19 to 40, recreational riders start as young as 10 and include some in their 60s.
One thing that makes Rock Hill’s budding cycling complex attractive is its accessibility to the public. The new BMX course would be one of only two Olympic-level tracks in the nation used for purposes other than Olympic time trials.
Amateurs, once they have taken a training session sponsored by the city, also can try their skills at the Velodrome. And the complex includes bike trails and a mountain biking course for all riders.
So, the BMX track will not only attract skilled cyclists from around the world but also serve as a recreational outlet for local riders. Who knows, Rock Hill could spawn the next BMX superstar.
The cycling complex is one more addition to an increasingly diverse group of sports venues in the city. Rock Hill now can accommodate major competitions in a variety of sports, including softball, soccer, tennis, basketball and disc golf.
The BMX track alone is expected to add $4 million a year in sports tourism dollars. City officials said that last year sports tourism pumped about $18 million into the local economy,
The BMX track and other attractions at Riverwalk appear to be a great investment in the city’s future.