BMX News has reported previously on the quest by USA BMX to work with a host city to build a BMX “epicenter,” which would include a purpose-built headquarters building, relocation of the BMX Hall of Fame (currently in Chula Vista), athlete training facilities, and an under-roof track with dual SX/Amateur starting hills.
USA BMX put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to prospective cities on March 2, 2013, asking for forward-thinking municipalities to make their pitch to bring jobs, community recreation and economic benefits of the facility to their city.
Among the cities who responded to the RFP was the current headquarters locale for USA BMX, Gilbert, AZ. Gilbert was serious about the project, and commissioned an Economic and Fiscal Impact study by a private firm to evaluate the potential on the local economy. That study arrived at the conclusion that the facility would have $1 Billion in economic impact over 30 years, when all forms of tax revenue, tourism, job creation and monies paid to utilities were considered.
The plan was to take 27 acres of town-owned land (once part of a local dairy farm), and create a facility similar to the concept-drawing above. This would include a 14,000 square foot headquarters office building, as well as an additional 12,000 sq ft structure for “Olympic Training Facilities,” and the BMX Hall of Fame.
The budget for the project was set at ~$20MM, with $3 Million coming from USA BMX, and $17MM coming from the Town of Gilbert (whether via a bond issue, or via reserve cash).
Two “Town Hall” meetings were held–the first on March 11, and again on April 8–for the public to pose their questions and give commentary to the Town Council prior to their voting on whether to approve the plan.
BMXers turned out in force at both meetings–the first had Sam Willoughby and Donny Robinson on hand for some Olympic flavor, as well as plenty of BMX jerseys in the crowd. Following that first meeting, there was a flurry of positive media on the project, with it hitting many of the local TV news channels and newspapers in “The Valley.”
The second meeting was held to provide the public an additional opportunity to voice their questions and concerns. By this time, opposition from the non-BMX public was growing–with close neighbors questioning the project on both noise and traffic grounds, and others going so far as creating a dedicated website to attempt to peck holes in the proposal and the economic study. One article was 2200 words in length, and another tried to call into question BMX Racing’s standing as an Olympic sport, with an article entitled “How long will BMX be an Olympic event?”
A “NO on BMX” email campaign to council members was organized and put into motion after the April 11 meeting, and by April 15, the media climate had turned from sunny to grey skies of uncertainty.
So much of the outcry was a classic “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) response to any large project. People are all-for beautiful public facilities that keep youth off the streets and generate millions for the local economy–as long as they don’t have to hear it, see it, be inconvenienced by it in any way, or pay for it. One resident went so far as to say “We don’t have a youth problem in Gilbert.” Lots of places didn’t a youth problem 30 years ago either, until they stopped actively moving to deter one.
The “public-private partnership,” as it is known in municipal circles, is also a fairly new concept to an average-Joe or Jane citizen–and many voiced opposition to using taxpayer funds to build a facility that will largely benefit a private, for-profit, company. It happens all the time, of course, even right there in Gilbert, with several examples cited during the town hall meetings.
And there were many residents who did not quite understand what this project–or BMX, for that matter, actually was. One resident voiced concern about the “Supercross” component when, after doing a Google search, found AMA Supercross and was concerned about the noise from the motors at the USA BMX facility. That question was addressed at the meeting to give the woman voicing the concern more accurate information–that “these are bicycles. . .bicycles only.”
On March 17, the town of Gilbert issued the following update, via its website:
Given much appreciated resident feedback, the Town of Gilbert has decided to focus on other elements of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan before committing to the development of a USA BMX Supercross facility in Gilbert.
“The highest priority, at this time, for me as Mayor, is addressing the needs of our parks system in South Gilbert. Although a BMX facility is a part of the Master Plan, and would bring substantial recreational, economic and tourism benefits to the community, we believe there are other parks-related needs that require our attention first,” says Mayor John Lewis. “Once we have developed a more specific plan for South Gilbert, I’d welcome the opportunity to revisit this potential project.”
USA BMX COO, John David told NEWS:
The staff at USA BMX would like to thank the thousands of friends, families, Gilbert residents and businesses and BMX racers who support the Gilbert project. We are extremely humbled by the tremendous support we received including the dedication to attend the two open house presentations in person and the amazing support via phone and online. We simply could not have asked for anything better.
This remains to be great opportunity for Gilbert businesses and the youth and families of the community and we are confident that this still has the potential to be one of the greatest assets the community has developed. We will be meeting with the Town Mayor and Town Manager on Monday and once we have a better understanding of their proposed timeline, we will evaluate the best course of action for USA BMX.
Hopefully, the language in the Mayor’s statement leaves the door open for the town to actually revisit this exciting, and beneficial project at some point in the future. To us around the office, though, “welcoming the opportunity to revisit this potential project” has ringings of “No, Timmy. . .Rover went to a big farm where he can play all day with other dogs.”