story: Joshua Corbelli photos: Brent Van Auken
BOOMTOWN BMX TRACK IN SHASTA LAKE CITY
It started in the early 1970s. Children in Southern California took to racing their Schwinns and such on dirt tracks in a fashionable attempt to emulate their motocross icons of the time, so the story goes. By the middle of the decade, bicycle motocross (BMX) was a fast-growing phenomenon – the intrigue of which crept its way north where, in 1986, Boomtown was born.
Located at Margaret Polf Park in Shasta Lake, Boomtown has seen seasons and riders come and go. The track was rebuilt last year to try and draw some new local interest in the sport. Nationally, the sport is growing. There are 32 national events – nine on the West Coast.
Many people here don’t really know about the sport,” says track manager Dan Endecott. “Boomtown is known for being one of the most fun tracks around. (Registration) has been steady. It’s not dead, but it’s not bangin’. I want to see it bangin’. Without the competition, it’s not nearly as fun as it could be.”
Local interest aside, the Boomtown team has made its name known. “When we go to nationals, our little team here is well-known. Our jerseys are flashy and our name, ‘The Dirty 530 (pronounced “five thirty”),’ is catchy,” he says with pride.
On a given race night (every Tuesday and Friday night from January through mid-December) the track sees an average of 25 to 30 racers of all ages. Some as young as 2 and others as mature as 45 don their helmets, line up at the gate and pedal until their heart rates are in sync with their pedal cadence.
Unlike most organized sports where formal practice is mandatory, BMX racers use the races as their practice, Endecott says. To get started, one just needs to make the short trip to Boomtown to see if the sport looks to be suitable. If so, the requirements are minimal. A 20-inch bike. Long-sleeved shirt and pants. A full-face helmet. Closed toe shoes. Then you head out and the first race is on the house.
After that, one must register with the American Bicycle Association (BMX’s governing body) for a $45 annual fee and pay per race. Tuesday nights are $5 and ribbons are awarded; Friday nights are $10 and trophies are awarded. There are no commitments, so one is free to race both nights, one night or neither night. But the nearly yearlong season is judged on a points system, so, the more one races, the more points one stands to win.
Endecott became involved in the sport not intentionally, but not quite by accident, either. “The former track manager and I were good friends. He invited me out when my son was 5, and it didn’t seem like the thing for us.” But a year later, Endecott’s son, Cale, 6 at the time, was persuaded by his neighbor to go visit the track. And thus began the addiction. Says Endecott: “Once you get into it, you’re sorta hooked. I never would have thought. BMX moms and dads are worse than soccer moms and dads.”
Racers are ranked on age and level of proficiency – novice, intermediate or expert. This makes races more competitive, while allowing everybody a chance to progress without overwhelming discouragement. An 8-year-old novice would get blown away by a 12-year-old expert and have no desire to come back, Endecott says.
There are some 260 ABA certified race tracks throughout the country, and racers can earn points at any track. It’s great for people who love to travel or want something to look forward to on their next trip, but locally, the majority of racers come from Shasta Lake, Red Bluff and Chico.