It’s full speed ahead for BMX venues in the U.S. The sport has recently jumped—and landed—across a wide divide. BMX, popularized in California, may take off in the South. Two Supercross facilities have been completed in Florida in the past year: in Oldsmar (near Tampa) and Sarasota, where Johan Lindstrom, the Swedish-born CEO and founder of Global SX Events, is based. Lindstrom revamped Sarasota BMX Supercross, transforming the country’s oldest BMX track into one of its best in time for the 2016 Union Cycliste Internationale BMX Supercross World Cup in October. Few are more qualified to do so than Lindstrom, who at UCI led the push to make BMX an Olympic event and built venues for the 2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games and this year’s Rio Games. He discusses how new facilities have pushed the sport forward.
Can you compare the state of BMX tracks now to when you joined UCI?
One problem I saw was professionals were riding on small kids’ tracks. They could basically ride a BMX track blindfolded back then. My first objective was to build tracks for [adult] BMX riders—that was the start of the new format called Supercross. We created more of a challenge for riders, pushing the envelope. Our first event was held in Camp Woodward, Pennsylvania.
How did the new tracks translate at the Olympics?
Initially, we built downhill tracks on a little hillside for the riders to hit higher speeds and make big jumps. We knew that was not going to work at an Olympic venue in a big city. We brainstormed the idea of a rolling, 40-ft. start ramp. The first ramp was created in 2005. At first, the older BMX riders did not like it, and the younger riders could not get enough.
What was your focus with the Sarasota track?
The goal is to facilitate the local clubs and young riders. We don’t want to scare them away. It needs to have more forgiveness to it. Having said that, we took a lot of extra time in design to make sure the track worked for the best riders in the world. I told the club teams, “With this as your home track, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Olympian coming out of Sarasota in six to eight years.” If you ride a track like this on a daily basis, you are going to get good.
Is the Oldsmar track a challenge because it’s so close to Sarasota?
The county was nervous about that, but I told them the only thing we need to take care of is that [Sarasota’s] a little bit better. As long as the riders stay in Sarasota and do most of their training there, we don’t mind them going up to Oldsmar. To have two Supercross tracks within one hour is quite unique.
4 BMX Venues to Watch
Oldsmar BMX Supercross Track
When a $2 million upgrade was completed in October 2015, it was one of only three Supercross tracks in the country—and one of two open to the general public (Novant Health BMX Supercross Track being the other). To welcome amateurs and pros, it has 5- and 8-meter hills.
Construction has begun on a new home for the long-standing racing site outside Atlanta, home to the annual Dixieland Nationals in June. While not a Supercross venue, it will be a staple on the USA BMX national tour.
This world-class facility opened in Rock Hill, South Carolina, setting the stage for the southeastern U.S. to take over the sport. The Olympic-caliber facility is the first to open to the public on the East Coast and will host the UCI BMX World Championships in July 2017.
Sarasota BMX Supercross
Opened in July, this venue will draw national and international competitions and groups from all over the world to train.