The Boston Globe Online today is reporting that a new, indoor MX facility has been approved in Bellingham, southwest of Boston. R. J. Cobb Land Clearing Inc. of Bellingham has received approval to construct a 68,400 sq. ft. enclosed facility near I-495.
To date, Supercross has remained the domain of professional racers because there are very few places for grass roots amateurs to ride true SX, or Arenacross, tracks. But there is a growing trend to build enclosed, indoor facilities — especially in the northern parts of the US where the outdoor riding season is only a few months each year.
This trend has important implications for outdoor motocross. New riders almost universally come to the sport today through riding and racing on outdoor tracks and trails. This serves to keep them connected, at some level, to the history and meaning of the sport. But as land use and noise concerns grow, it’s inevitable that indoor facilities will grow in popularity.
A well-designed indoor facility can contain the noise normally associated with dirt bikes. They give riders a place to practice regardless of the weather or temperature. More importantly, they give young riders a place to practice the timing and jumping skills that are unique to SX- and AX-style racing.
The growing popularity of SX, the rock concert, pyrotechnic atmosphere of the events, the short yet furious style of racing, and the high-flying, extreme-sports nature of the competition all combine to create a powerful allure for attention-addled, video-game-addicted youth. As indoor facilities become more available it’s possible that we will see riders in future generations who have never, or rarely, ridden an outdoor track at all.
What we are seeing are the early stages of a complete, cradle-to-grave SX environment against which outdoor MX will have to compete for its survival. Like any significant evolution, this one will have its ups and downs. Many of the early facilities will fail from financial or management issues, but others will take their place. Owners will learn the lessons needed to keep the facilities profitable. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the AX series begin moving to some of the better permanent facilities as they emerge.
All of this means that grass roots outdoor MX will have to change in order to survive and grow. It will have to become more professional and focused. While this is happening already in some parts of the country (particularly SoCal), outdoor MX is still the domain of good ole boys with some land and a bulldozer in most places. Local tracks will have to improves facilities, increase their marketing, and learn to work more closely with local businesses and governments to show how they benefit local communities.
The days of (relatively) inexpensive practice tracks for budding riders may be numbered. The political, social, and economic environment is changing rapidly, and track owners will have to become more sophisticated and savvy to compete and survive. If you’re a current or former track owner I’d love to hear your perspective on this. I’d love to know if you see this as a significant challenge in the future and what you’d do to compete in the emerging environment.