Since 2014, ESPN X Games and Austin have been a committed couple. But every relationship, no matter how sweet, eventually comes to an end, and so ESPN recently announced its search for a new 2017–2018 host city. While X Games Vice President Tim Reed said he “wouldn’t rule out” a return, he stated that a later summer date would mean the Austin venue was just too darn hot for spectators and athletes.
As a final farewell, X Games has made a few additions and subtractions, changes designed to leave athletes and Austin’s action sports fans separating on the best of terms.
X Games Austin New Layout
X Games Director of Competitions and Logistics Rich Bigge has consistently worked to improve athlete and spectator experience at Circuit of The Americas (COTA). “It’s definitely an art,” he said as he went over the venue layout.
Everything is centrally located at COTA, eliminating the iconic Capitol background for the Vert riders. Just a quarter mile away, last year’s new permanent dirt motorcycle course hosts Thursday night’s Harley Davidson Flat-Track Racing.
Spectators wanted less walking, so Bigge and crew consolidated the X Games layout at COTA proper. It’s now possible to grab one strategic viewing spot and see BMX Dirt/Moto X, Big Air and the relocated Street course. The Street course was moved from the grandstand straightaway near the COTA tower, leaving the Park course a solo star. Vert Village remains a short walk to the fountain area, while the Gaming Shack was shifted closer to Next X Parks and the playground area.
Because wind direction plays such an important role, Bigge designed tracks so ramps can be moved to accommodate athlete safety. “Wind direction changes here on an hourly basis,” Bigge explained. “While the landings stay the same, in 10 minutes, we can significantly change the course.”
Shelter From Sun and Storms
One of the cooler changes to X Games Austin is shade. BMX Dirt was shifted down onto the track; the hilltop where last year’s course was erected has become an elevated covered viewing area. I love to park myself on the long hill beside Big Air and the Crown Royal VIP Lounge, and added shade here is a welcome relief. Reed explained that one 200-foot structure was designed, “not just as a tent, but as an art piece, something bringing in that unique lifestyle element” to X Games.
New Real-Time Athlete Data
Intel and X Games Aspen tested a new data collection system at this year’s Winter Games, and three Austin events (Skateboard Big Air, BMX Big Air and BMX Dirt) will provide real-time data such as speed, in-air rotations, jump height, distance traveled and landing impact.
Kyle Baldock, a BMX rider who has four X Games medals–all gold, and two in the same year–had this to say about the new technology:
Reed encouraged downloading the official X Games Austin app as the best way to monitor news. Athletes will not compete in the event of rain, so schedules are subject to change in case of bad weather (and odds of some bad weather seem to be good). Concerts, however, go on “rain or shine.”
X Games Austin Fan Tips
- Want to root for hometown favorites? Only three action sports athletes from Texas are participating in this year’s X Games Austin: Chase Hawk (BMX Park), Ben Raybourn (Men’s Skateboard Park), and Morgan Wade (BMX Big Air and Big Air Doubles).
- Dress for ATX festival success. Wear shoes that can handle walking and wet terrain. Be prepared to maneuver some grassy hillsides to grab the best views and find shade. Respect the weather (it’ll be hot and muggy, so hydrate), and be sure to apply sunscreen often.
- Leave the scooter at home. Though there’s bike parking and a skate check area located outside the Grand Plaza entrance, bikes, skateboards and other sports equipment are not allowed within the X Games venue. Both bikes and skateboards, however, can be checked out in the Sour Punch Next X Parks Festival Village, so fans can participate in activities.
- Opt for hats, rain ponchos and towels carried in a small bag (smaller than 14 inches), as strollers, chairs and large umbrellas aren’t allowed. Despite some 10 inches of rain at COTA last Friday, the ground was surprisingly firm, and the new shade tents will provide protection from the elements.
- Be part of X Games history by watching the first ever Dave Mirra’s Park Best Trick competition. Eight athletes are vying for this special honor in memory of the great BMX rider who died in Feb. 2016. That event is on Sat., June 4, from 2:10–2:30 p.m.
- Don’t miss out on a single social media opportunity. Find the AT&T charging station to revive dead cell phone batteries.
- Factory-sealed plastic water bottles (one liter or smaller) are allowed, and those can be refilled throughout the day at water stations. Plan to buy all other food and drink at COTA–hello, Torchy’s Tacos, Austin’s own X Games sponsor!
- While the big bundled passes are sold out, it’s still possible to buy day-specific tickets for X Games Austin. Friday and Sunday tickets are $29 each and Saturday tickets are $39. Shuttle passes for transportation from Austin’s downtown Convention Center to COTA can still be purchased. (In light of the standing water in the fields and parking areas along FM 812, this might be a wise option.)
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are you looking forward to the most at X Games Austin 2016?