Athletes and international teams readying for the 2016 Summer Olympic games will first stop in Rock Hill next September and “drop in” at the city’s Supercross BMX track.
On Tuesday morning, city officials announced the 2015 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Finals event will be held in Rock Hill. The track’s grand opening event is next weekend, and Olympic BMX racers are expected to visit Rock Hill then to help celebrate.
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols says BMX is the next big step for sports tourism locally and regionally. In announcing the 2015 event, Rock Hill joins other World Cup Final sites planned for next year: Manchester, England; Papendal, Netherlands; Engelholm, Sweden; and Santiago del Estero, Argentina.
The Novant Health BMX track is located at the city-owned Rock Hill Outdoor Center at Riverwalk. The venue is part of Riverwalk of the Carolinas, a recreation and residential community located off Cherry Road, near Interstate 77.
The city expects at least 200 athletes, male and female, to compete at the 2015 World Cup Finals at Riverwalk. The event will also draw about 5,000 spectators.
Later this year, Rock Hill will host the USA BMX Eastern Division Gold Cup Finals at its new track. The event is scheduled for the second weekend of October and is expected to bring more than 800 bicycle racers.
The October 2014 event is free for spectators. The city’s grand opening event at 10 a.m. on Aug. 23 is also free.
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest of a series of big event news for the Rock Hill Novant Health BMX Supercross track. Earlier this year, the city landed the 2017 UCI World Championships – an event similar to the 2015 World Cup Finals.
During the championship event, the cycling community will descend on Rock Hill for 10 days, bringing at least 3,000 amateur riders and about 300 professional BMX racers to the track. The 2017 championship races in Rock Hill mark the return of the event to the United States for the first time in 16 years.
Tuesday’s announcement of the 2015 World Cup Finals also marks a milestone: Rock Hill will be the first U.S. city on the East Coast to host the event.
Rock Hill BMX coordinator Mike King called that move “unprecedented.” Many of the sport’s East Coast fans, he said, have never been to a World Cup Finals event.
The World Cup competition and the UCI World Championships are the two largest BMX events where Olympic hopefuls can earn points for themselves and their countries.
For local residents, Echols said, the city’s new track will expose the young and old to a new sport and offer new opportunities for volunteers and spectators. Soon, the BMX track will host youth programming and activities to teach the sport to beginners.
The chair of the city’s newly-formed sports commission, John Gettys, said he hopes Rock Hill “can grow some of our own Olympians.” He urged residents to attend events at the BMX track and the city’s Giordana Velodrome, another competitive cycling venue at the Outdoor Center.
While the city enjoys the estimated $17 million in annual direct economic impact from sports tourism, Gettys says the underlying motivation is to provide quality recreation options for people in Rock Hill.
With the BMX and other cycling facilities, he said, “we’ve really caught lightning in a bottle in Rock Hill.”
For more information about upcoming events, visit the city’s BMX website at cityofrockhill.com.