Gator Nationals event showcases Oldsmar’s new BMX Supercross track

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City, state and local officials gathered for the grand opening of Oldsmar’s newly remodeled BMX Supercross track on Friday, October 16, 2015.

They came from Canada and Colombia, California and Clearwater.

They were young and old and the group included men, women and children.

Yes, nearly 1,000 amateur and professional BMX riders, as well as their friends, family members and fans, from across the country and around the world descended upon Oldsmar’s newly renovated BMX Supercross track last weekend for the 15th annual USA BMX Gator Nationals.

And based on the large turnout and the reactions from many of the event attendees, the Canal Park facility, which features a 20-foot-high hill that can accommodate Olympic qualifying, was a huge hit.

Local band Stormbringer rocked the house during the opening Oldsmar BMX Supercross ceremonies on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Local band Stormbringer rocked the Oldsmar BMX Supercross track during the opening ceremonies on Thursday, Oct. 15.

“This is the finest BMX track in the world,” USA BMX CEO John David told Oldsmar Connect. “The layout, the amenities, everything. The City, the sports commission and USA BMX did a terrific job here.”

“There are 380 local BMX tracks in the United States, but tracks of this caliber, there are literally only a handful in the world,” he added. “The way this was designed and constructed, you’re not going to find one that’s better in the world.”

The praise was greatly appreciated by City officials who worked basically around the clock over the past few weeks to get the project, was plagued by weather and construction delays, ready in time for one of the sport’s biggest events.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis sports his custom USA BMX jersey.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis sports his custom USA BMX jersey.

In fact, the grand opening of the track took place just one day before the Gator Nationals began despite hopes that it would be ready much sooner.

But despite the last-minute efforts to get the track ready, or perhaps because of them, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis lauded City staff for pulling off what seemed impossible not too long ago.

“A week or so ago, I wasn’t sure we were going to get this thing completed in time,” Bevis told the crowd at the beginning of the event on Friday night.

“But thanks to the hard work of (leisure services director) Lynn Rives and City staff, failure was not an option, and if not for them, we wouldn’t be here today hosting the Gator Nationals.”

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Riders rip up the new Oldsmar BMX Supercross track.

Reactions to the track were universally positive across the board, with everyone including Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos and U.S. Congressman Gus Bilkirakis singing its praises.

“It’s really exciting to have this beautiful facility in this city,” Commissioner Eggers said. “The City of Oldsmar did a great job getting it together in time for this event.”

And with more than 900 riders from 38 states and 24 countries participating, it was a good thing that the track was up to snuff for one of the sport’s marquee events.

“The facility is exactly like the vision we had when we began this project,” Oldsmar Leisure Services Director Lynn Rives, who spearheaded the remodel of the 10-year-old track, said. “We were very fortunate to pull it off.”

Oldsmar's newly remodeled BMX Supercross facility received rave reviews during the 2015 Gator Nationals event last weekend.

Oldsmar’s newly remodeled BMX Supercross facility received rave reviews during the 2015 Gator Nationals event last weekend.

“We started working on the project in 2012, and I think the end result is a spectacular facility,” he added, noting he couldn’t have done it without all the help from the parks and recreation staff as well as Oldsmar BMX president John Sawyer.

As the weekend wore on and the track, which is just under 1,200 linear feet and made up of more than 8,000 cubic yards of dirt, got “broken in”, riders also weighed in on the work.

Canadian rider Amelia Walsh checks her race results.

Canadian rider Amelia Walsh checks her race results.

“It’s great. I love it,” 23-year-old Canadian rider Amelia Walsh said. “I like how they changed the direction of the track, it’s much better for the wind.”

The facility also served another of its purposes, bringing tourism dollars to Pinellas County, a fact that was confirmed by Walsh’s mother, Cathy.

“My kids came here for the track, but I came for the beach!” Cathy Walsh said. “So it’s a win-win for all of us!”

Now that the 2015 Gator Nationals is in the books, staff can start to tidy up loose ends at the track, such as covering the dirt with a had shell-like coating that protects it from water damage.

And with the Gator Nationals event switching to February next year, once again, city officials won’t have a whole lot of time to get it prepared for another international invasion.

Here’s a look at some of the scenes from the 2015 USA BMX Gator Nationals event at Oldsmar’s new BMX Supercross track:

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