X Games Preview: Taking Over Austin for the Biggest Event of the Summer

Tuesday June 3rd, 2014

Austin, Texas, has opened its doors to host the town's first-ever X Games. And by doors, we mean the front door to the recently opened Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack, where X Games will primarily live for their June 5-8 run.

X Games has taken over the 350-acre racing facility, cite of Formula One's U.S. Grand Prix, and is building six event venues within COTA's 3.4-mile race track, while also using an existing 14,000-seat amphitheater and other conference center-type buildings for anything and everything X Games.

“We wanted a single front door to come in and experience all the different elements,” Tim Reed, X Games senior director of events, tells SI.com. “Austin could provide that all on a single footprint, with a single ticket. From a facilities perspective, it has a lot to offer.”

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The four-day event will kick off at the one venue outside of COTA. The vertical ramp for skateboarding and BMX will take over the intersection of 10th Street and Congress Avenue front of the state capital in downtown Austin, a picturesque location intended to provide some quintessential visuals.

“It is a pretty portable event,” Reed says of the ramp itself. “It allows us to center [the ramp] on iconic shots [of the capital building], and everyone will be aware of where we are, setting a sense of place.”

After setting the Austin scene, X Games will slide fully into COTA for three straight days.

When the X Games was flirting with the idea of moving locations—Austin beat out Denver, Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina—walking COTA helped make sense of the venue puzzle a lot more understandable.

The BMX dirt track, a downhill course, will get built into the track’s signature Turn 1, which already boasts a natural elevation drop of 133 feet, the first time X Games has worked with such ideal terrain for the BMX event, Reed says.

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The track’s front stretch, which boasts ample seating, suites and plenty of built-in infrastructure, will host the street and park courses for BMX riders and skateboarders. COTA spokesperson Julie Loignon says they’ll bring in additional viewing areas to supplement the grandstands.

Right near there, in Turn 19, you’ll find the roughly 90-foot-tall big-air ramp, a ski-style skateboard jump that moves into a 30-foot-tall quarter pipe.

Turns 12 and 15, near the long back straight, will have both the moto and rally/truck venues, two different areas that can use the existing grandstands, the largest section of seats at COTA. And each of those venues offers up variety, with as many as six different mini-tracks within each course footprint, Reed says.

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The rally course—all interior venues saw construction start on May 16—will end up as the largest course, as it does each year, simply due to the space needed to house the cars. Creating the rallycross and super stadium truck venue includes adding dirt to sections of the existing Formula 1 track and run-off areas to create the multi-surface track on which competitors will race.

Each year the tracks and courses get a tinkering, changing the makeup year to year. “The dirt, rally and moto [courses] all evolve quite a bit,” Reed says.

Throughout the remainder of the space, X Games can open up space for interactive parks and villages, sponsor and industry booths, a Major League Gaming arena and other festival-style attractions.

No matter the course or the entertainment option, once Austin X Games really gets moving, fans can find it all in one place. And through one central door.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. 

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