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Bicycles are big business:
a q&a with John David
Bicycle Motocross, BMX, began in 1977 and became an official Olympic sport in 2008. This past weekend, Freedom Hall hosted the Bluegrass Nationals and this summer, another state-owned facility, E.P. Tom Sawyer will host the Derby City Nationals. We got a chance to talk with John David, Chief Operating Officer of USA BMX/BMX Canada.
What is USA BMX?
USA BMX is the main governing body for the sport of bicycle motocross. We sanctioned 14,000 local BMX races in 2013. It’s almost more events than any other national governing body. Events like Bluegrass Nationals at the exposition center and the one at E.P. Tom Sawyer are a part of 30 events on the national level.
USA BMX’s demographic is really interesting. Our peak age is 13 and the largest growth right now is in ages 36 and older and 8-years-old and under. It’s first generation BMXers who are in their late 20s or early 30s that raced as kids and are bringing their kids into the sport. Statistically we are seeing young kids and an older family member who is also racing. The oldest rider at Bluegrass Nationals will probably be early 70s.
Why did USA BMX choose Louisville?
We selected Louisville for a number of reasons. Louisville has an outstanding sports commission, phenomenal convention and visitors bureau — the best that we deal with anywhere in the country — and great staff here. Lots of people fly in to our events here. We have a great contingent out of southern California and Phoenix, Arizona. We are contracted with ten different hotels by the airport with various price ranges and the set up couldn’t be better. We have people who travel and fly to a lot of different races. They love Louisville because they pick them up at the airport and then the shuttle drops them off right across the ramp at the expo center. This setup for the people who are flying is outstanding and I’m really eager to see the increase in flyers this year after they learned from last year how close it really is. It’s very rare that the venue is this close; the Kentucky Exposition Center is the only one that is this way.
Why do you think BMX is such a fast-growing sport?
There are two reasons why I am so proud of our sport. One, with our sport no one sits on the bench. In BMX racing we take our riders and we subdivide them by novice, intermediate and expert. So if you are a brand new rider, you race with the novice and other brand new kids to the sport. Everyone can be competitive. They won’t get dominated by people who have been riding for five years. That can be a tough thing for kids starting new sports.
The other thing that works so well and what I think is equally unique and fascinating is that you are going to see families everywhere. Our sport is an individual sport, it’s not a team sport, but we do have a team — that’s the best part. The team is a family unit. When you talk to the parents about what they are doing, they love BMX because they are their sons and daughters coach. As parents, one of your biggest challenges is communicating to your kids, what is a common language you can speak, something you can bond over and our families do that through BMX. That family unit and the motto that no one sits on the bench is just paying dividends for us.
Where does USA BMX see an opportunity for growth?
Our women category is great. Right now they represent about 13 percent of our demographic. For us, we certainly feel like that is the absolute biggest opportunity for growth. We are doing some really strategic things to make it grow. We became an Olympic sport in 2008 and since then we have had a complete initiative to market directly to women. We are starting to see with the success of the sport and collegiate BMX scholarships and the Olympic dream that the women participation is really starting to grow. We’ve got about a ten year plan where we want to see it grow and we are confident that we can get there.
How does an event like Bluegrass Nationals function?
Friday is our prerace, a practice-like atmosphere. Saturday and Sunday is the national event. We run practice in the morning and then the races start around 11:15 am. You will see one of the coolest transitions in sport ever. The first race starts with two-year-old striders then three, four and five-year-old striders. The Pro class is next and you might see a 27-year-old Olympic-potential athlete. The riders are trying to get their six best scores that will earn their national age group ranking.
What is the difference between this event and the event at E.P. Tom Sawyer on Labor Day weekend?
From the structural standpoint it’s the same event but with a totally different atmosphere. The track at E.P. Tom Sawyer is twice the size and more technical with the outdoor park-type setting than the Freedom Hall setup. So the contrast is great and that’s what’s cool about it, the customer experience is totally different.
What is the biggest challenge in planning an event?
For us, our key to success is staffing. We have a phenomenal staff. The biggest challenge is always finding the right team to execute an event; it’s no different than running a business. You are only as good as your people because when you have an issue, having a team that can adapt and has the expertise and understanding will instinctively know what to do. We are so blessed because I’ve got guys that are just warriors. They live this sport and they did this as kids. We are very unusual as a national governing body because everyone in the company and the entire staff has raced BMX.
Date Event Name Place
FEB 12-15 National Farm Machinery Show and Championship Tractor Pull KEC
FEB 15 Mayor's Youth Opportunity Showcase KICC
FEB 27-
22nd Annual Show of Shows Antique Military Show KEC
FEB 28-
Louisville Home, Garden and Remodeling Show KEC
MAR 2 Kentucky Xtreme vs. Bluegrass Warhorses KEC
MAR 8-9 4th Annual Louisville Kids Fair KICC
Kentucky Exposition Center
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Kentucky International Convention Center
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Kentucky State Fair
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National Farm Machinery Show
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