The season had wrapped up the night before, but the folks who keep BMX racing on track in Airdrie are back at Fletcher Park bright and early the next morning – a Saturday morning – to prepare the facility for the winter break.
The many volunteers, who new president Cam Northwood says strive to bring a family atmosphere to the organization, are working hard to keep Airdrie BMX healthy and continually growing.
Started by the Cools family many years ago, the BMX club has become a gem on the city’s sports scene. It’s hosted the nationals and several provincial competitions and has produced many athletes who have worn the maple leaf in international competition.
“They’ve really developed a culture of participation and teamwork and excelling at the sport,” says Northwood, as volunteers work on fortifying a retaining wall. “Every family was there to help the other families. There was no agenda for anybody.
“Everybody feels welcome,” adds Northwood, whose two children have been BMX riding for the past six years.
The sport of BMX originated back in California in the 1970s when youngsters who couldn’t afford motocross simply started riding their bikes on dirt. It grew from there to become an organized sport and really took off when it made its Olympic debut in 2008. Airdrie’s Samantha Cools was part of the first group of BMX Olympians in Beijing, China, that year, where she finished seventh. Most recently locals Jim Brown and Daina Tuchscherer competed at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto in July.
This past season the Airdrie club attracted more than 200 registered riders, a jump of about 20 per cent from the previous year, according to the club’s communication and marketing director Shane Carson.
“For a city of [approximately 59,000] people we are quite proud of that. Compare that to clubs in Calgary and Edmonton with their population; our club [is] quite larger than those clubs,” Carson says.
The club’s board is working hard these days to attract young riders, looking to increase numbers in the younger age groups because it had started to become noticeable two to three years ago that numbers were on the decline. The club’s Facebook page displayed a photo of four of its five-year-old newbies showing off trophies from the Sept. 16 season finale that were several inches taller than them.
“We’ve put a real big push on the five-, six-, seven-year-old category,” Carson says. “This year our coaching programs really took off, especially on the recreation and novice programs – really teaching the fundamentals.”
With a new board taking over in 2015, the club opted not to host an Alberta BMX event, but Carson says that the plan is to do so again in the future once everyone gets settled into their roles.
The club is also interested in hosting the Canadian BMX championships, which were held in Airdrie in 2010 and will be coming to the area again in 2016 when the Calgary BMX Racing Association hosts the national championships Sept. 2-5.
There’s no doubt a thriving BMX club is a financial windfall for the city when the competitive season runs from early May to late September.
“At the end of the season we had four consecutive races where we had more than 100 riders and a lot of those riders were coming from Calgary, Cochrane and even Okotoks,” Northwood says. “What it does for the economy is people are coming out and spending money here, they are eating dinner here. When we host a provincial race you’re looking at 400 plus riders and they bring their family and that’s two to three extra people staying at hotels and eating in our restaurants.”
To learn more about the club and 2016 registration visit airdriebmx.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org