Central Oregon is poised to capitalize on a sport that’s exploding in popularity, hosting the BMX Great Northwest Nationals next month for the second straight year.
The region has two BMX racetracks, Smith Rock BMX at the High Desert Sports Complex in Redmond and High Desert BMX at Big Sky Park in Bend. The bicycle racing sport hosts events across the West, but recent efforts from a group of local BMX enthusiasts finally convinced the sport’s sanctioning body, the American Bicycle Association, to come to Oregon.
“There’s a lot of events in California, and there was a big national in Washington,” said Tracy Stephens, mom of two young BMX bikers. “So we started plugging away at the ABA: You really need to come to Oregon.”
The ABA was sold, with Central Oregon beating out two other finalists.
“We put in a proposal a couple years ago, and we were one of three finalists, and they flew out and looked at the facility and agreed to move the first national here last year,” Stephens said. “We had to prove our stuff, and we were thrilled. We had one of the best turnouts for the year in Redmond last year. We had more than 1,200 riders come from 17 states.”
Those 1,200 riders have a huge impact on the local economy. Stephens points out that each rider typically brings from one to four family members, and 90 percent of participants come from outside Central Oregon.
“I think we filled every major hotel in Redmond last year,” Stephens said. “To us, that was a positive.”
The event is set for April 3-5 at the Hooker Creek Event Center, and most riders will stay for an extra couple of days in addition to that, further bolstering the economy.
Dan Despotopulos, director of the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, said the RV park is already almost completely full for the event.
“There’s so many people coming to town,” he said. “It’s going to be huge.”
Roxia Todoroff, sales coordinator at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, said last year’s Nationals event brought an estimated $1.7 million to the local economy.
“It had a huge economic impact as far as hotels and restraurants,” Todoroff said. “They only expect it to grow with BMX becoming a part of the Olympics.”
In a conservative estimate, Todoroff said, organizers say that day travelers who already live in Central Oregon spend about $79 a day, with out-of-town travelers spending about twice that. And that doesn’t even take into account the increased traffic at local bike shops and other stores, she added.
The Nationals are April 3-5, and opening day for BMX racing is set this year for April 11.
High Desert Sports Complex 1859 Northeast Maple Avenue, Redmond, OR 99756 541/548-7275.
Big Sky Park 21690 NE Neff Road 541/389-7275