Cyclocross, Carolina style © Dennis Pike

Cyclocross, Carolina style © Dennis Pike

by Jamie Mack

Communities across the country seem to be embracing the notion of permanent bike parks that feature cyclocross as a main attraction. Shovels have already hit the dirt for the Valmont Bike Park in Colorado, and of course the ‘cross community in Louisville has done what once seemed impossible – bringing the World Championships to the US in a dedicated cyclocross facility.

It seems that another community, this time closer to the east coast, may have been infected by the ‘cross bike bug.  The Rock Hill Herald reported earlier this month that city leaders in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are considering revamping plans for a city bike park that’s been on the table for several years. Initially to include only a concrete oval velodrome, the plans could be expanded to include features and courses for BMX Supercross and cyclocross.

Specific details of the proposed project are sparse at this point. The bike park would serve as an early drawing point for a larger residential and commercial development project that would include homes, retail and other businesses and recreational facilities. But it has been reported that Steve Johnson of USA Cycling has visited the area and confirmed that the planned facilities could host future national caliber events, a strong vote of confidence for the potential venue.

The BMX Supercross track would be the only venue of its type on the east coast, according to The Herald. Supercross is BMX taken to new heights – literally, with bigger jumps on par with those seen in the Beijing Olympics and the UCI Supercross World Cup. With the inclusion of BMX in the Olympics, public interest in this niche sport is very high, a definite driver for a project of this type.

Obviously if you’re reading this it’s not likely that you need a description of what ‘cross is, and I certainly wouldn’t want to begin the debate of what it is to each of us, but I’m sure that you’ll agree it’s more than The Herald’s description of a cute little sport where people jump off their bikes and push them. And if you live in the area that could benefit from this endeavor, I’d say that speaking up now and educating the locals on the nuances of our sport would be a good way to bring the ‘cross community to the table.

While locals may see a potential money drain, you will likely have a different view. The ‘cross community knows first hand the economic and social impact that having such a facility could have on the immediate area. Cyclocross is an expensive pastime for those of us who partake, but many of the dollars that flow out of our wallets go into the coffers of restaurants, bike shops, gas stations and other local businesses in whatever area has the vision to create the events and facilities that bring us to town.

As venues and races across the country work to find a way, or a place, to survive, the members of the community around the Rock Hill area have a unique opportunity. The eyes of the local leaders have been opened to the possibility, and hopefully to the positive side of having a multi-faceted bicycle park in the area. The facilities could work to inspire locals to embrace new activities to improve their minds and bodies. The riders and racers outside of the area would help to support both the venues and the community around them by pouring outside dollars into the local economy.

The opening of the venues is reportedly planned for 2012, which may open the door for some events building up to the Masters World Championships scheduled for Louisville at the end of that season. As with any project of this scope, it remains to be seen if all the parties involved can work and play well together in bringing these plans to fruition. The future will tell all, but hopefully this is the continuation of the trend begun in Valmont and Louisville that will continue to spread ‘cross love across the country.