In just over 40 years, BMX has become one of the largest youth sports across the world.
It’s now a billion-dollar industry, an Olympic sport, and on Saturday, Dec. 1, BMX racing has a new home in Ventura.
After two years of preparation and planning, Ventura BMX Raceway, a USA-BMX-sanctioned race track, will be open to the public at Ventura Community Park on the corner of Kimball and Telephone Roads.
“This is going to be great for the city and should bring in tens of thousands of dollars,” said Lea Kozin, owner/operator of Ventura BMX Raceway, a 501(c)(3) organization. “There will be a track shop, a snack bar, and over the next year we’ll build a picnic area and host birthday parties.”
Developed on a five-acre lot, the track features several jumps, high berms and a rhythm section. Kozin said that over the next few months, they will be building pro sections with parallel and alternate paths.
“We’re really excited,” said Kozin, who co-owns the cycling apparel company Nema International with her husband, Erick. “It’s wonderful to be a part of any project that can give kids a healthy alternative other than getting into trouble. It appeals to kids not interested in traditional sports. Nobody is sitting on the bench; it’s a great alternative and the whole family gets behind it.”
Kozin estimated there are about 3,000 BMX racers in Ventura County who currently use the tracks in Camarillo and Simi Valley. With Ventura BMX located in a residential neighborhood, the ridership is set to increase, Kozin explained.
Mike Day, a 2008 Olympic BMX Silver Medalist, has helped in the design of the Ventura track and said he’d like to set up coaching clinics at the facility.
“I’ll be there riding all the time,” said Day. “It’s got a little bit of everything to get basic fundamentals down, and a pro section that will be more technical.”
Day said that since BMX became an Olympic sport in 2008, its popularity has never been greater, in Ventura County, too. “The more tracks there are, the more people get into it,” he said. “It’s an Olympic sport and the more kids that do it the more it becomes a good thing.”
There are a little more than 280 USA BMX-sanctioned tracks in the country, and Kozin said the Ventura track will be considered for regional and national races, which will bring thousand of visitors to the area.
“We’re excited to offer this because it’s a recreation that we don’t have,” said Ventura Parks Manager Nancy O’Connor. “It’s trending. It’s in the X Games, in the Olympics, and it’s exciting.”
The project was approved unanimously by the City Council in July 2012. The Council agreed to lease the five-acre lot to the Kozins, with a possible three-year extension option. Because the track was not in the 100-acre park’s 2005 master plan, city officials will evaluate its success after the five-year lease. The track, Kozin said, cost Ventura BMX about $60,000 to construct, funded mostly through personal funds, donations and partnerships. The agreement shows that Ventura BMX will pay no rent in the first year. Starting with the second year, the nonprofit will pay 5 percent of its first $50,000 in revenues to the city, 10 percent of the next $50,000, and 12.5 percent of revenue greater than $100,000.
O’Connor said Ventura BMX has agreed not to host races that conflict with swim meets and other events at the park, as parking is already limited.
The grand opening on Saturday, Dec. 1, is at 11 a.m. with free practice, racing at 1:30 p.m. The winter schedule is Wednesdays and Fridays, 4 p.m. to dark. Practice sessions on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon; racing begins at 12:15. Free one-day trials are available to anybody. For prices and more information, visit www.venturabmx.org or call 229-1BMX.