By Joe Ewert
Your heart races as you slowly pedal to the starting gate. It seems like a long way down that ramp to the first jump, but you know it will be a quick start as long as you pedal hard. The gate drops and your legs pedal faster than they ever have. Before you know it, you’ve reached the end of the course, and can’t wait to do it again.
The same feeling is had by many at the Central Wisconsin BMX Park in Wisconsin Rapids. It is there that kids and adults alike share their love of Bicycle Motocross, and hone their physical ability, work on self-discipline, and boost their self-esteem.
The Track Operator of CWBMX is Mark Statz, and he says the sport of BMX is for all ages.
“I’m fifty-seven years old and I still ride,” Statz said with a grin. “We have kids as young as two years old that ride balance bikes, and then there are guys older than I am that still ride, so it really is an all ages type of sport.”
A balance bike is a simple setup for young kids. There is no chain and there are no pedals. Youngsters learn to balance themselves while riding on it, pushing themselves along with their feet. The track includes them in their racing activities.
The track itself is designed according to their own preferences and planning. While they are a USABMX-sanctioned facility, there is no set criteria for the track layout.
“You just have to make it safe,” said Statz. “We generally want the track to be anywhere from a thousand to twelve hundred feet long, but we get to pick where we want the jumps and berms to be. We have to make sure it’s competitive but not so challenging that kids are going to get hurt out there because that’s something we obviously want to avoid.”
Accidents can happen and bumps and bruises are inevitable, just as in any other sport. CWBMX is fortunate to have enough experience and know-how on hand that any injury will be handled swiftly and properly.
“We’ve all been trained in CPR and First-Aid,” said Statz. “There are probably thirty people trained that way and if somebody does crash on the track and needs help, we will jump in front of them to block them from getting hit by another rider. If something really bad does happen, we will shut down all operations and get an ambulance here as fast as possible.”
Central Wisconsin BMX races every Thursday and Sunday during the season. A membership costs just $60.00 and is not limited to just Wisconsin Rapids. Riders are encouraged to branch out. Members can race anywhere in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
“It’s the kids,” said Statz. “When the kids come up and say ‘Thank you, Mr. Statz’, that is the main thing. It keeps me going and it’s very rewarding to see the kids get so much enjoyment out of it.”
The Vice President of CWBMX, Eric Nelson, shares Statz’s passion for the sport, saying it is unlike any other sport out there for kids to get involved with.
“It’s very family-oriented,” Nelson says. The kids and parents both get to meet a lot of new friends and they can travel all over the country together. It’s unique because you can participate at your own level and convenience. There are no set mandatory practices or anything like that.”
In order for the kids to have a nice facility to race at, a lot of work goes into each event. For that, Nelson explains, there is a large number of volunteers that contribute.
“We are a non-profit organization,” Nelson says. “We have a large group of volunteers. Our season never really ends because we have board meetings in the winter to plan for the next race season. We rely on sponsors and the revenue we can generate at the track with 50/50 raffles and concessions and things like that.”
Area businesses that do sponsor the track get a date all their own, where their name is displayed on the marquee at the track’s entrance, and they get special mentions over the loudspeakers throughout the race events.
Nelson’s own two sons are very active in BMX racing, and it has had a profound impact on their lives both on and off the track.
“My youngest, Dillon, started at five years old,” Nelson said. “My oldest son, Ross, got started in 2003 at twelve. They both compete right now at the highest national amateur level. Dillon has met friends all over the world in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Ross actually chose his career in physical therapy because of BMX.”
BMX racing is also an Olympic sport, having been part of the games in 2008, 2012, and again this summer at the Rio games.
With so much time spent on sports that practically require a second mortgage unreasonable time investments just to compete in them, parents can rest assured that the sport of BMX racing is affordable and enjoyable for everyone.
The next event at CWBMX will be Thursday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m. and is sponsored by the Paper City Savings Association. For more information on the sport of BMX racing, call Mark or Kris Statz at 715-421-4521, or the track office on race days at 715-459-2809, or visit www.cwbmx.org.