Young local riders have been flocking to the sport in droves thanks to Oldsmar’s world-class BMX Supercross track, which hosted the 2017 USA BMX Gator Nationals last weekend.
Shortly after Oldsmar’s new BMX Supercross track opened in October 2015, it was clear that the Olympic training-level facility would attract professional and amateur riders from all over the globe.
That fact became apparent when a number of national teams used the track, located at Canal Park on Tampa Road, to help their world-class rider qualify for the 2016 Rio Games following the USA BMX Gator Nationals last February.
But while the best BMX riders in the world have been singing the track’s praises, it has also led to an influx of local kids joining the sport through the city’s Oldsmar BMX organization.
“It’s absolutely growing,” Oldsmar BMX coordinator Jason Conklin said during the 2017 Gator Nationals last weekend, noting there were roughly 20 local kids from Hillsborough and Pinellas County entered in the event.
Scene from the 2017 USA BMX Gator Nationals held at the Oldsmar BMX Supercross track last weekend.
“This new track is a great facility that brings riders from all over the country and the world,” he added. “But obviously the local riders benefit from it, too. Not everyone can say they have a world-class track in their own backyard.”
To Conklin’s point, a trio of young riders from Oldsmar— Andrew Riordan, 9, Chase Edling, 8, and Clay Haddock, 9—were running motos—and enjoying success—over the weekend.
Oldsmar’s Chase Edling (l) and Andrew Riordan (c) at the 2017 USA BMX Gator Nationals.
According to family members, all three recently decided to take up the sport after attending races at the new track.
“Last year we brought him here to watch the races, and he got the bug,” Chase’s dad, Brian Edling, said.
“We had to leave four hours later and get him a bike. No lie. He couldn’t wait.”
Edling said his son met Andrew through Oldsmar BMX, and they quickly forged a friendship through their shared love of the sport.
“Jason took Chase under his wing, and he met Andrew while they were training,” he said. “And they’ve been close friends on and off the track ever since.”
Andrew’s mom, Jami Riordan, said her son is serious about the sport, but they appreciate the camaraderie that exists throughout the world of BMX.
“Andrew’s been racing for two years and he loves it,” she said. “He’s trying to be number one in the state. That’s his goal!”
“It’s a great sport and it keeps him out of trouble. These kids all help each other.”
8-year-old Chase Edling of Oldsmar runs a moto during the 2017 USA BMX Gator Nationals last weekend.
Clay Haddock, meanwhile, has been racing for less than a year.
But according to his grandfather, longtime Oldsmar City Manager Bruce Haddock, his grandson has quickly picked up the sport, and the family is happy with his newfound passion.
“I think it’s a great sport,” Haddock, who is set to retire in January following 30+ years at his position, said. “It’s a good family activity, and everyone can do it. Like the slogan says, nobody sits on the bench in BMX.”
The influx of local kids interested in the sport is music to the ears of USA BMX officials.
“Everything we do is about the local program,” Nick Adams, chief marketing officer for USA BMX, said. “It’s all about how to keep the facility viable for 12 months a year for the locals, not for us. This isn’t about us. It’s all about Oldsmar BMX.”
Oldsmar mayor Doug Bevis (l) and USA BMX CMO Nick Adams watch the 2017 Gator Nationals.
Adams, who said there were more than 1,200 entrants in the Gator Nationals this year, said every track sees its share of local riders, but the key is to keep bringing new riders in year after year, something he doesn’t foresee as a problem in Oldsmar.
“The local crew and the city does a great job with this track and this facility,” he said. “And even with the track undergoing construction, closing and then reopening, the local program is growing again.”
“This is one of the top facilities in the country, for sure. It’s bound to be successful.”
Enjoy this photo gallery from the 2017 USA BMX Gator Nationals in Oldsmar: