Leader Blues

Friday, July 31, 2009

SPORTS >> BMX motocross track opening in Cabot

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The fast-growing sport of BMX motocross racing is coming to Cabot.

The Cabot BMX Complex will open next weekend at Lonoke County Regional Park on Aug. 8, when it hosts state qualifier motos.

BMX motocross bicycle racing is similar to its motorcycle counterpart. Courses are set up with steep turns and jumps. Riders compete in three different races, or motos, with a winner for each moto along with an overall winner. The overall winner is the rider with the best finishing average of the three events.

The complex, which is located on Willie Ray Drive in Cabot, originally had an astronomical price tag of over $250,000, but thanks to the resourcefulness of local resident Shawn Basinger, the track will open its gates at a cost of under $10,000.

“It’s a lot like when we started building the (youth) football fields; it was done on a shoestring budget,” said Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams. “When we had Carter-Burgess estimate what it would cost, that’s what they came up with, but Shawn got it going for a low cost, and we’re very happy with that. Shawn has such a passion for it, and he’s really taken ownership with it.”

Once Basinger got the green light on the project from Williams in late 2008, he came up with a challenging and innovative design. Complete with a steep, 20-feet high starting hill and a dual-lane section Basinger calls “the decision maker,” the 1,100-foot-long track is set up unlike any other track in the country.

“I sat out there a lot of days just visualizing how we could do it,” said Basinger. “There was nothing out there. The city street department has really been a big help. Cabot Parks and Rec. and the mayor have also been a big help. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we did in the amount of time that we did it with the funds that we had.”

The track will be sanctioned by the American Bicycle Association, which hosts events across the country.

Motocross BMX has been around since the early 1970’s, but has only begun to grow in this area significantly in recent years. It was featured as an event at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, and the Cabot park is the second such facility to open in Arkansas in as many years.

There are now five BMX tracks in the state. Maumelle, Banzai BMX at Burns Park and the track in Fayetteville have all been around for a number of years, with the addition of the Ward Nail Park BMX Track in Lowell opening last year.

For Florida native Basinger, the process has been a labor of love. He began competing as a teenager, and now his children are involved in the sport. Thirteen-year-old son Jaggar is a regular rider, and 10-year-old daughter Kaleigh also rides on occasion.
Basinger knows the ins and outs of promoting such a facility after running the Banzai BMX track at Burns Park a few years back. The largest cost was hauling dirt to the site. Cabot Advertising and Promotion donated $7,600 to help get the dirt to the location, and the ABA chipped in by sending expert track builder Eric Bress from Colorado to the area at no cost.

Bress took Basinger’s design, and within four days, the Cabot BMX complex was born.

“It just started coming together,” said Basinger. “We started piling up dirt and got it ready.”

Shawn and his wife Angie Basinger have just now begun to attract sponsorship interest from various businesses in the area.

“If you look at Cabot, it seemed as if it were impossible to even get that track here to begin with,” said Angie Basinger. “From what I’ve been told, all of the plans were for thousands and thousands of dollars to get here. And when we started, we had zero dollars.

“Now, we still have zero dollars, but God has caused everything to kind of fall into place.”

There are two different divisions of BMX motocross. There’s the cruiser class — which consists of slower, 24-inch bikes — and the normal 20-inch class. The 20-inch class has three levels: novice, intermediate and expert.

“No one sits on the bench. If you don’t like your results, you can go train to get better,” said Basinger. “It’s up to you to fix it. It doesn’t have to be a high-end bike starting out. Anybody can come out and race with what they’ve got.”

There is virtually no age limit to the sport. Riders can start out as young as three-years-old, but can still be competing in their sixties.

“If you can keep a kid involved with BMX or something of that nature, it will keep kids from drinking or smoking,” said Angie Basinger. “Our 13-year-old is the same way. Jaggar has no desire to get into the things that a lot of kids do when they have no hobby or no sport. That’s what we want to accomplish. We want to reach the kids that don’t fit into team sports.”

Basinger originally planned on holding an event this weekend in preparation for next week’s state-qualifier motos, but rain throughout the week forced a cancellation. The state qualifier will pull riders from around Arkansas, as well as surrounding states.

There are also plans to hold a celebrity race on opening night, with Williams as one of the participants.

“I have a mountain bike, so I’m ready, but I’m also afraid of heights,” said Williams. “If I do it, I will have to have plenty of padding. As fun, I may even add a little extra something, anything to drum up attention for the track.”