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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BMX race course might bring bikes to fairgrounds

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From age 4 to 65, riding bicycles can get down and dirty. Especially in the world of BMX bike racing.

A group of BMX enthusiasts are hoping that some recently purchased land at the Putnam County Fairgrounds can be utilized as a non-motorized BMX course as soon as next year.

And the Putnam County Fair Board has left the proposal in the discussion stage, with a decision to be made before fall.

"This is not a done deal," Fair Board president Ken Heeke announced Monday to board members. "No commitments have been made to anyone."

But he asked board members to consider the proposal, and to bring back questions and opinions to the July board meeting.

On Monday, Bill Collins, a referee for Indiana BMX and a representative of National Bicycle Motocross, told the board that BMX can be a money-maker for the fairgrounds, and would involve little investment. He estimated race attendance of more than 2,000 people for two-day events, and those visitors would pump money into the local economy through dining, hotels, camping, and other spending. Attendance for regional and national events would be larger.

The BMX idea is not new to the community, fair board president Ken Heeke said. Some talk has already occurred among some local leaders of where to locate such a facility. But, the board's recent purchase of 29.6 acres from adjoining Windy Hill Country Club presents a good location for the track.

Heeke explained that a prime location for the track would be the hillside east of the existing outdoor arena. That area has the grandstand seating, lights and public address system needed to host events.

Moving earth and building the track would take about two days, Collins said. It just takes earth moving equipment and some fill dirt to build hills for jumping. The starting point for the track would be up on the hillside, he said, and the ending point could be through the south fence of the outdoor arena, in front of the grandstand. Only eight riders are in each race.

Collins said he has already purchased a starting gate for the course. Other investments would be a black tarp to cover the course in case of rain, and fencing at least four feet high to keep spectators off the course.

The benefit for the fairgrounds, he said, would be profits from concession and ticket sales. The BMX organization would provide the volunteers to staff the events, and NBL carries insurance on the riders and events.

Collins encouraged construction of an "elite" track that would attract not only amateur competitors, but professional riders as well. That is where the big profits will be, he said.

Following his presentation, board members noted some concerns about trespassing on the track after hours and at night.

"We already have trouble with people riding ATVs back in there," Kevin Oxford noted.

And Extension Educator Lauralee Baugh asked why the track initially proposed for Big Walnut Sports Park did not go through. Heeke said the lights, stands and announcement system was not readily available at the sports park as it is at the fairgrounds.

Heeke said security, insurance and use of the new ground are all valid concerns that board members should consider. But so is profit.

"We need to figure out how to generate more income outside of the month of July," Heeke said. "This may be one of the new things we can try, or maybe it's something we don't want to do."

Collins told the group he needed a decision before Labor Day, since the NBL will be making up its schedule for the new year in September.

The board will again discuss the issue at its next meeting, set for Monday, July 17 at the fairgrounds.

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