OLDSMAR — For more than two years the BMX Supercross track at the Oldsmar Sports Complex has stood vacant, a towering reminder that even the best-laid plans can go off track.
Lingering structural defects with the packed-earth track forced officials to decide whether to abandon the $2.3 million facility or rebuild it.
The Oldsmar City Council agreed last month it was more important to keep the track, unanimously approving a design-build agreement with Tarpon Springs-based J. Kokolakis Contracting for as much as nearly $3 million, news that was music to the ears of the dozens of members of the local BMX community in attendance.
“When this item was originally discussed I was not really in favor of it because of the amount of the investment,” Mayor Eric Seidel said. “But I will tell you that my opinion on that has changed.”
Seidel said the vacant track is “a brutal reminder when you drive down Tampa Road” of the decision to go with the lowest bidder to build the facility, and he said he gets asked daily about whether it would reopen. “And the input has literally been 100%, ‘Mayor, we’ve got to get this fixed. It’s become part of our community.’ And I don’t think we should take that away.”
He also stated the possibility the city would have to repay part of the track funding as another reason to rebuild it.
“Of the $2.3 million, the city put in a million and the state put in $1.3 million, and as part of that we have obligations when we take that money,” Seidel said. “There is legitimately probably some question as to whether or not we owe that $1.3 million if we chose not to rebuild it. So, it starts to change the dynamics a little bit.”
The mayor also noted the roughly $3.4 million economic impact of the annual Gator Nationals event on the area, and he said the city could “repurpose” Penny for Pinellas funds to help pay for the work. “Therefore, we don’t have to take on any debt for the repair,” Seidel said.
While the four other council members lamented the cost, they ultimately agreed with Seidel’s decision.
“I never even dreamed this would’ve happened to our city, that the track would be defective,” council member Dan Saracki said. “And I’m truly disappointed. But I love the BMX and I support the BMX very much. It’s a staple of our city. It brings revenue and it brings riders that love our city and … I think it’s time that we move forward and get that track done.”
Council member Linda Norris said the price tag initially turned her off but she eventually changed her mind, and she questioned whether the city should change the way they present these “big ticket items” to residents.
With that, the motion to approve the item passed by a vote of 5-0.
Afterward, Seidel spoke about the city committing to the costly track repair.
“The council has heard from many people, locally and from afar, who’ve been asking the question, ‘When are we fixing the track?’ There has been very few people asking ‘if’ we will fix the track,” he said via email. “On the surface it looks like a $3 million repair cost decision, but the dynamics are much broader.”
Citing the economic impact as well as the many local riders who depend on the track, Seidel said, “In the end, the council understood the impact the track has made in the lives of many local kids. The fact that the sport has been growing locally means keeping it going will continue to make a difference to kids here in Oldsmar and the region. Who knows, maybe one of our kids will one day represent the USA in a future Olympics. I believe it can happen.”