Spokane Journal of Business

Merkel Sports Complex to host national BMX race event

Sports commission expects $2.3M in visitor spending

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Spokane Sports Commission President and CEO Eric Sawyer says the city of Spokane could reap $2.3 million in visitor spending from this weekend’s 2017 USA BMX Lumberjack Nationals at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex, in North Spokane.

The sports commission estimates the national races, which will start Friday, Aug. 19, and run through Sunday, Aug. 21, will result in 3,500 overnight hotel stays, Sawyer says. 

The sport of bicycle motocross, or BMX as it’s more widely known, was born in the U.S. in the early 1970s. The nationals here will feature more than 1,500 riders ranging in age from youth to adults in their 30s, Sawyer says.

Races at the sports complex, located at 5701 N. Assembly, are expected to draw 2,500 spectators, which would make this the largest BMX event Spokane has ever hosted, Sawyer says.

The Joe Albi BMX Track got a $150,000 overhaul for the national race. It sits on a quarter-acre piece of land halfway between Joe Albi Stadium and the nearby soccer fields at the sports complex, Sawyer says.

He says the sports commission spent $54,000 in grant money on the project, with the rest of the funding coming from Spokane BMX, a seven-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes the sport of bicycle motocross, and the city parks and recreation department.

Each year, the sports commission raises money and establishes a budget to assist sports organizations here. Grant applications are reviewed by the commission’s advance sports committee, which then makes recommendations to the sports commission’s board, he says.

 “If we can help fund strategic facility improvements or equipment upgrades that secure national sporting events for Spokane, the whole community benefits by the millions of dollars generated by these large events,” Sawyer asserts.

“We had a lot of volunteers through the efforts of Spokane BMX, which did a great job of helping put this together,” he says. 

Says Jay Brother, Spokane BMX’s president and track operator, “We’ve really focused the last couple of years on improving the track, increasing our race attendance, and adding more members to Spokane BMX.” 

Sawyer credits Spokane BMX and the city parks and recreation department for bringing the event together. The sports commission began working with the two entities more than two years ago, he says.

“This is a model we’re certainly going to use in the future,” Sawyer says of the way the groups partnered. “Sorry for the pun, but it really has been a fun ride.”

 Kevin Blocker
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Reporter Kevin Blocker, a University of Colorado alum, is a rec league basketball addict. At age 47, he still sports a 32-inch vertical leap. He has three children, all of whom are hooked on hoops.

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