If ever one movie has come to represent a sport to the general public, undoubtedly that film is the 1986 cult classic, Rad. The sport Hollywood was cashing in on at the time was BMX racing. Little did anyone realize the influence that the admittedly cheesy film would have, inspiring thousands of kids to take to their BMX bikes in the hopes of copying the film’s young hero, Cru Jones.
And certainly no one would have thought that one of those impressionable youngsters would, years later, be instrumental in bringing the sport back in a big way to the city of Ventura.
This story starts with Erick Kozin, a 38-year-old lifelong Ventura County resident who grew up riding at the BMX track that once existed in Saticoy.
While Kozin remained interested and passionate about the sport as the years passed, it came rolling back into his life when he noticed that a large section of the Ventura Community Park and Aquatic Center was not being used. Naturally, his thoughts and instincts were that the area would make an ideal location for a BMX racing track.
He first approached, in 2011, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which agreed that it was a great use of the undeveloped space. From there he put a plan together and took it to the City Council, which approved the proposal in January 2012. By July, Kozin was the envy of his 10-year-old self when he officially signed the lease with the city to operate and run a nonprofit BMX racing track in his hometown.
With his and his wife’s own money, as well as donations from businesses and parents, the track opened in December last year and surprised many who doubted the sport’s current popularity until riders from all over the state showed up for the grand opening.
If the “if you build it they will come” philosophy straight out of Field of Dreams isn’t inspiring enough, what Kozin has managed to achieve since the track’s opening is simply hard to believe.
The USA BMX Nationals, a 22-city competition, essentially the major leagues of BMX racing, has chosen Ventura BMX to be a new location starting in May 2014. In addition, the deal guarantees the Nationals will visit Ventura for at least three years.
It’s expected that there will be more than 1,500 riders over the three days that the competition takes place and more than 5,000 people who will visit the track, and Ventura for that matter, providing the city a sweet economic boom to that is conservatively projected to bring in more than $1 million.
“It’s important to USA BMX that the cities that host the Nationals are really behind the event,” explained Kozin. “From the Parks and Recreation Department, local businesses, parents and even the mayor, who personally called USA BMX to let them know that Ventura would be honored to have them here, everyone lended a hand. It’s unheard for a track to land one of these events in their second year but I think that really says something about this city.”
Having accomplished so much in an incredibly short period of time, right now Kozin is focused on the many clinics scheduled, including a visit from world-ranked BMX rider, Steven Cisar, last weekend, and next month’s visit from Olympic Bronze Medal-winner Donny Robinson. Yes, folks, BMX racing is an Olympic sport.
If Ventura BMX can become so popular so fast, where does he see the track and BMX in Ventura headed, a few years down the dirt road?
“I could honestly see the Nationals becoming so big we need to move the event to the fairgrounds right next to the ocean. I could see the event being televised and tens of thousands of people attending and Ventura becoming a destination for riders and fans around the world, but … first things first,” laughs Kozin.
From what he’s already proven and done in the track’s first year, it’s not impossible to see Ventura becoming a Disneyland for BMX riders and fans.
Regardless, old Cru Jones and his teammates would most definitely think Ventura BMX is, without a doubt, Rad.
Ventura BMX is located at Ventura Community Park, 901 S. Kimball Road. For information, call 229-1BMX or visit www.venturabmx.org. All ages are welcome and besides scheduled races and open riding times, clinics and classes are available.