X Games descended on Austin’s Circuit of The Americas (COTA) last year for the first time. This year’s Austin event does it again, but with an updated sense of style.
With the June 4-7 event taking over the 350-acre racing facility and one downtown location, X Games will up the offerings from six venues to 10 this year while introducing new events and courses.
Last year the Skateboard and BMX Vert event kicked off Austin’s X Games by staging in front of the state’s capitol building in the city’s downtown. While the Vert ramp moves to COTA this summer, the intersection of 11th Street and North Congress Avenue—that’s in front of the capitol for those not up on Austin navigation—fills with the Moto X event that sees riders attempting to clear a bar as it goes higher and higher. Last year’s winner—inside COTA—was Ronnie Renner with his 34-foot clearance. Renner set the event’s record at 47 feet at X Games Los Angeles in 2012.
New for 2015, the Harley-Davidson Flat-Track oval offers racers the ability to build up to speeds reaching 130 mph. The Moto X QuarterPipe also makes a debut. In this event, eight freestyle motocross riders will attempt a trick off a single quarter pipe feature. On the same course, the Moto X Best Whip gives riders a six-minute “jam session” to perform tricks, with fans voting on the winner.
The Skateboard and BMX Big Air event adds a new discipline—Big Air Doubles, which pairs a BMX and skate athlete as a team—on the MegaRamp. Athletes start at the top of an 88-foot-high drop-in ramp, soar over a 50-foot gap, land and then launch another 20 feet in the air above the quarter pipe.
Other courses provide some intrigue too, such as the Moto X Speed & Style pitting racers head-to-head on a track that includes air tricks. The Enduro X track drops logs, rocks, jumps and tight curves into the racers’ line.
Using the existing home of Formula One’s U.S. Grand Prix venue, event designers build BMX tracks into turns, such as the track’s signature Turn 1, which already boasts a natural elevation drop of 133 feet. The track’s front stretch, which boasts ample seating, suites and built-in infrastructure, hosts courses for BMX riders and skateboarders. Additional viewing areas get brought in to supplement seating already there. And with other turns and seating spread across the venue, organizers can space out events and courses while keeping the athletes in front of spectators.
Creating the rally course—the largest course each year—lets designers add dirt to sections of the existing Formula One track and run-off areas to fashion a multi-surface track.
If 2014 was the introduction of X Games Austin as a single-venue home, think of 2015 as a slight renovation.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.