The question of whether alcohol should be sold and served at BMX races is one that pre-dates social media. Historically, the Las Vegas and Reno races have had it readily available, and one or two select tracks around the country, which happen to have been situated in a “sports complex” environment, with a full-service restaurant.
Recently, however, the call for BMX Tracks to seek out their own beer/wine licenses, and to start serving alcohol at regular local races has been renewed. One person leading the charge is Texas Vet Pro Tim Kneip, via his Podcast, Death by Dinosaur (link below).
It should be said that I’m not aware of one track that is actually taking steps to get such licensing, and that is a big comfort. As the headline implies, I feel introducing alcohol of any kind (beer, wine, hard liquor) into the BMX racing environment is a terrible idea for several reasons.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am enjoying a glass of red wine as I tap out this article, so I am far from a teetotaler.
Let me also say that, while I am strongly opposed to this idea, I respect Tim and his desire to improve the sport of BMX Racing. He showed me great respect in his podcast, discussing the issue, and I appreciate that. Still, I feel the need to express the other side of the argument.
And in his commentary, Tim was right— I DO take a very conservative stance on this issue, and believe BMX Racing to be a family and youth sport first and foremost, an adult activity a distant second, and a “pro show” spectator sport last, but not least.
To that end, it would be a BIG mistake to introduce alcohol to our local tracks–even if the land owner permitted it (which most wouldn’t, since the track is on park or other municipal land).
Tim skillfully laid out the opposing side’s objections to bringing in booze (some of which was based on comments I, and others, have made previously on his posts on the topic), but the main point is: “just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we must do that thing.”
Beer sponsorships in cycling are not uncommon—especially in the Mountain Bike world. Sierra Nevada was a principal sponsor of USA Cycling in the not-too-distant past.
But the age and characteristics of the BMX Racing audience is such that even energy drink sponsors need to voluntarily stay away, much-less a beer brand. It’s just trying to make BMX Racing into something it’s not– granted, there has been a lot of that going around in the past decade or so, with Olympic this-and-that, dual hill facilities and regulation socks.
As noted above, this idea is not exactly new. We were debating it on Vintage for a good-long-while, back in the 2010-2012 era. I was as firmly against it then, as I am now.
Tim is also right, that there is alcohol on-offer pretty-much everywhere we go. Bars, restaurants, movie theaters, even on Disney property. He makes the case that, because it’s everywhere, why not the BMX Track? My position is precisely the opposite: can families enjoy ONE place where, for a few hours each week, they and their children are not bombarded with drinking opportunities?
If BMX Racing can continue to offer a wholesome, family-focused environment, we may-well be one of the only places remaining that does. Can parents abstain from alcohol for three or four hours in a week, to take their kids to a bike race, and not get the DTs, or ache from the pain of FOMO? The actions of tens of thousands of us say “YES!” And we’re likely not losing anyone because of it.
I’m not even getting into the legal ramifications of serving someone a few beers, then having them go out on the track and hurt themselves, or someone else. The risks—both to our sport’s image, and liability concerns, far-outweigh any potential social “place to be” benefit or monetary gains for the track.
There MIGHT be some “give” in my position for spectator events like the UCI SX event that was held in Rock Hill a few years back. The show runners there are European, and follow the Euro tradition of having a beer garden at their races. They did so at Rock Hill, though it was not very busy (which made me happy).
BMX Racing enjoys its place as “The Fastest-Growing Family Sport in America.” I use that as a rallying cry to recruit new families into the League programs I organize in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Our track operators’ efforts to make it a family-friendly environment are not lost on the families, who come out and join the League, and begin participating in our sport.
They praise the track staff for the environment created for them and their kids. We’re not out for the praise, obviously, but it is our singular mission to do right by them–all of them, all the time.
I couldn’t look them in the eye if the day ever came where our announcer says, enthusiastically: “the beer taps are now open.”
When/if that happens, I’m done.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the rush to post this story before leaving for Rock Hill, I grabbed a photo off of a county-run website depicting a BMX track found in a Google search. It was not meant to depict that SPECIFIC track in any one way, but to be a representation of a BMX track. The track in question (not sure if it is appropriate to mention their name, so I won’t) was very upset at the use of their track for this depiction and I would like to apologize to all involved. The track was not named or identified, aside from showing the track layout…but still I understand where they’re coming from. I hope our apology is accepted. It won’t happen again. -MC
*Includes some mature-audience language and adult themes.