Turns out coffee wasn’t the main reason a crowd gathered at Rock Hill’s City Council chamber Friday morning was so chatty and invigorated.
Mayor Doug Echols made the official announcement that the city would host the 2017 BMX World Championship at the still-under-construction Novant Healthcare BMX Supercross Track. The forecasted economic impact to the area could be significant. Whereas various sports events brought $18 million of economic impact to Rock Hill during the whole of 2013, the BMX World Championship is estimated to contribute somewhere in the region of $13 million. For a 10-day event.
“The economic impact of this just really boggles the mind,” said John Gettys, the chairman of the Rock Hill Sports Commission. “Start thinking about those numbers when you have some time, and you’ll see why everybody’s smiling today.”
Three-thousand amateur and 300 pro racers will compete in the world championship, which will be held July 26-30, 2017, with practice days on the 24th and 25th. The competitors’ average stay is around 10 days.
Echols, Gettys, and South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism director Duane Parrish did the talking Friday morning. Novant Healthcare BMX Supercross Track head Mike King wasn’t present; the BMX Hall of Famer was part of a three-man delegation, including Rock Hill Parks and Recreation officials Thad Fischer and John Taylor, that was making its way back from Switzerland where BMX’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), made the announcement on Thursday.
A bid launched by the city about three months ago culminated in the awarding of the world championship.
“We’ve been sitting on it,” said Gettys. “It’s such a big deal, we didn’t want to let everybody know about it at the time.”
Rock Hill’s BMX Supercross track is expected to open in August and already has several events scheduled for late 2014. The track’s construction falls in line with Echols’ desire to sell Rock Hill as a destination for sports tourism. For years, the city hosted mega softball tournaments at Cherry Park, tennis events, and the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships at Manchester Meadows in 2012. But never before has the city played host to a world championship.
“When you think of the attention this will bring Rock Hill, South Carolina for a BMX World Championship as an isolated event, that’s one way to think about it, and you could put a period at the end of that,” Echols said. “I suggest to you that that’s not the case. What happens is that kind of exposure, worldwide exposure, is that people begin to look closer at our community for all kinds of reasons.”
Echols continued: “It’s a way of saying to the larger world, this is a special place. And when you have the opportunity to say that, it attracts the attention of others. I believe strongly that these kinds of opportunities lead us to other opportunities. They’re not in isolation.”
The BMX World Championship hasn’t been held on American dirt since 2001, when Louisville did the honor. After stops all over the world, including New Zealand, Great Britain and Denmark in the last three years, UCI was interested in returning to the United States. Gettys said that USA Cycling, which was contacted by the world championship organizers, cited Rock Hill as the perfect locale to host the event.
“Today is truly a day to celebrate,” he said, before adding, “We want championships in Rock Hill.”