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Growth of BMX in Dacono culminates with Mile High Nationals

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By Jeremy Johnson

DACONO — Those in the know say Colorado has a hearty BMX scene, and Dacono’s newly remodeled BMX track is just one of many fine facilities in the Centennial state.

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But Dacono city officials and local riders who call the Tri-Town region and the Dacono BMX course their home think their track – complete with a picturesque plains-and-mountains view – is the best. In just a few days, they’ll get to test that theory.

The BMX Mile High Nationals are coming to Dacono Aug. 1 to 3, and the event prompted track officials to make an already good thing even better by way of more than $125,000 in renovations.

Dacono City Administrator AJ Euckert said Dacono already had a “pretty sweet” track before they found out in August 2013 the Nationals were coming. News of the event, he said, spurred officials to act on prior discussions of improvements.

“Track improvements were discussed during the past few years, but once we were awarded Nationals, planning for the requested improvements became a reality,” he said. “Even before the improvements, though, the track was pretty sweet.”

To be sure, the Dacono BMX track has long been on the radar of cyclists around the nation and the globe — the same event was previously held in Dacono in 2006. Similar sanctioned events have also been held over the years at a number of Colorado’s dozen or so sanctioned tracks in places like Greeley, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Denver, but the Centennial state was left off the slate in 2013. Bringing it back was a “no-brainer.”

“With 12 tracks all around Colorado, and with the state’s reputation as a cycling Mecca, it’s a no-brainer to bring the USA BMX circuit to Colorado,” said Craig “Gork” Barrette, chief communications officer for USA BMX and the American Bicycle Association. “Colorado … has tracks in all directions and corners, and thus has a thriving local scene, which makes it a perfect stop in the National circuit.

“Colorado hasn’t hosted a national event in a few years, so it was a big deal for the Colorado BMX scene to get an event in the state,” he added. “And Dacono is a great facility that can hold such a large event.”

That’s a good thing, considering Barrette said the event is expected to draw 1,000 amateur competitors from nearly 30 states.

The rise of BMX

The Dacono BMX track was built in the mid-1980s, just more than a decade after the sport began rising in popularity on the West Coast, and in the midst of First Lady Nancy Reagan’s well publicized “Just Say No” campaign.

“The city received funds from the Just Say No Foundation as part of a national effort to keep kids off of drugs by offering recreational opportunities,” Euckert said.

The BMX program is now part of the Carbon Valley Park and Recreation District’s curriculum, while the track remains owned by the City of Dacono.

As BMX racing gained traction in Dacono, it saw continued success on a nationwide level.

“USA BMX has grown from a small southern California bicycle meet to over 70,000 members,” said Bess Loveless, communications and community outreach coordinator for the CV Parks and Recreation District. “While it is arguable whether our sport was born in 1969 or the early 1970s, the one undeniable thing is that BMX racing all came together in Southern California.”

Like so many things Californian, the sport has branched out considerably in the past three to four decades. The American Bicycle Association, now BMX USA, was formed in 1977, according to Barrette, and are the “one and only” sanctioning body for BMX racing in North America.

BMX USA currently hosts an 11-month-long race season with circuit stops in 22 states that include 30 unique tracks and arenas. Dacono is the 20th stop of the series in 2014. Riders there can compete for individual track accolades while accumulating points toward an overall title and a BMX USA No. 1 ranking.

Competition is stiff, but Colorado is no slouch. A few Dacono regulars have gained attention on the national circuit – including locals Walker Finch and Reid Austin.

And Euckert added that one racer, David Herman, known on the circuit as “The Herminator,” calls Dacono his home track – that is, when he’s not trekking the globe. Herman represented the U.S. as part of the three-man 2012 Summer Olympic BMX Team, only the second Olympic BMX team in history. Though neither Herman nor his teammates brought home a medal, they did bring even more attention to what has become an internationally legitimate sport.

“He’s a rock star in the BMX community, and he draws some pretty decent crowds,” Euckert said.

“Herman is a great role model for the sport, and being a Dacono local rider (has) definitely helped boost the local scene at all (of Colorado’s tracks), as well as around the nation,” Barrette said. “Thanks in part to the exposure of the Olympics, along with the growth of second and third generations of racers getting their kids involved … BMX racing continues to grow in numbers and popularity with today’s youth.”

‘A great reputation’

The talent in Dacono is there, and so are the amenities. And with a national event coming through on the heels of major, professional-level upgrades, Euckert believes the Dacono track will make an impression. The city is already moving forward with plans to apply as a National host again in 2016.

“Dacono BMX already enjoys a great reputation in the region, and the rebuild has really taken it to the next level,” Euckert said. “It is our hope that we bring the Nationals back every year and continue to make improvements to the track.”

According to Euckert, recent improvements to the track include the build-up of the track’s three banked turns and a complete remodel of the straightaways. The starting hill was also rebuilt to add a steeper slope and higher elevation, Euckert said, and new, LED lighting will help brighten nighttime races.

“Since last year, the city has invested around $125,000 in track improvements, not including all the hours our Public Works employees have put into the track rebuild and related projects,” Euckert said. “The Recreation District has also helped with the rebuild costs, but I’m not certain what those final numbers will be.”

Euckert said the city is expecting a robust return on its investment.

“While it’s difficult to measure the exact economic impact … it’s great for local businesses to have such a large audience in the city for three days,” he said.

Helping boost attendance numbers and spread the wealth is the fact that the city is also simultaneously hosting its Carbon Valley Music and Spirits Festival. That two-day event, featuring The Samples, The Richie Furay Band and more, will coincide with the BMX Nationals, and Euckert said it could serve as a great opportunity to draw even more people into Dacono.

“This is the first year we expanded it to a two-day event,” he said. “The close proximity to the BMX track should draw plenty of people down for the entertainment, food and beverages.”