Nearly 1,000 people filled Cundiff Park Sunday for two BMX events at the Durango BMX track.
Riders from age 4 to 50 showed up to participate in the Colorado state qualifier and the Gold Cup qualifier. The state qualifier is one of 14 held throughout Colorado that helps riders accumulate points to reach the state championship, while the Gold Cup qualifier is a national event which brought in riders from throughout the region.
“Overall, it went well,” said Jordan Rupe, Durango BMX track operator. “To have that many out-of-towners, we did a good job of keeping everyone happy and focused.”
Rupe estimated that 800 people were at the track on Sunday either participating or viewing the races, with a majority coming from out of town. Of the 196 registered racers, only about 20 were from Durango, Rupe said. He estimates that around 80 were from outside Durango.
Hosting BMX events can help aid the local economy. An economic impact study done by the American Bicycle Association said that the average family spends $500 a weekend during a BMX event, said Jeffrey Speicher, chair of the local BMX nonprofit group.
“Durango’s more expensive so it’s probably more,” he said. “It’s a sizable deal for the community.”
Since activities begin on Friday and many riders are visiting Durango, many families rented hotel rooms for the weekend.
“They’re certainly here for the weekend, spending money in the community at dinnertime and for hotels,” Rupe said.
The local BMX community has grown rapidly over the past several years. Two years ago, Durango was 14th out of 15 in the state in track points, which tallies new rider participation. Last year, the city moved up to third.
The city with the No. 1 spot hosts the state championship the following year. This year, the championship will be held in Dacono, north of Denver.
“Building BMX locally enables you to host these bigger events,” Rupe said. “We have to work harder than everyone else because we’re pulling from a smaller demographic.”
Rupe is hoping the continued growth of the program will allow them to move to the top spot and host the championship, which would be at least twice as big as the qualifier.
“We have to dream big and shoot for it because there would be a lot of prestige there,” Rupe said. “When your program gets to host a race like that, you’re drawing people in. And the bigger the event, the more you charge them for the race. And so if we pull in that many riders, our track makes money.”
Local BMX enthusiasts are hoping a more modern BMX track is included in the city’s plan to improve Cundiff Park, which should be released soon, Rupe said.
“It’s pretty crucial to improving the local BMX community,” Rupe said. “It’s part of what’s inhibiting us from taking another big step. We’re a little behind the times, so we could use a modern facility.”
Every sanctioned USA BMX track is eligible to host a state qualifier, Rupe said. This is the 15th year of the state qualifier in Durango. To qualify for states, riders submit their top four scores from any of the 15 qualifiers held throughout the state.
To host a Gold Cup qualifier, which attracts racers from throughout the region, a track has to apply through a bidding process. Riders who advance will participate in one of six Gold Cups held throughout the nation.
The city usually hosts a Gold Cup qualifier every other year, Rupe said.
“Running a good, clean, smooth event is what brings people back the following year,” Rupe said.
Mark Miller, who came from Colorado Springs to watch his son race, said the Durango track is one of the most well-organized events in the BMX community.
“Sometimes, you go places and things are a disaster and they just don’t run very well,” he said. “These run smooth.”
Miller also enjoys the family-friendly environment at both the track and in the city.
“We like this race,” Miller said. “We came up here last year and it’s a nice place. There’s a lot of stuff to do with the family. We’ll keep coming. It’s fun.”
Glenn Kassel of Elizabeth came to race in the event and visit his brother and his girlfriend. He was pleased to see the turnout, especially in the younger generation. Rupe estimated that 170 of the riders were under the age of 16.
“It’s great to see so many kids getting back into it because that is going to be the future of the sport,” Kassel said.