OLDSMAR — Dozens of local riders, family members and fans of the sport packed City Hall on May 7 to express their love and support for the city’s BMX Supercross Track.
The track, at the Oldsmar Sports Complex on Tampa Road, underwent a $2.1 million renovation in 2015. That project turned the bicycle motocross course into an Olympic training-level facility that has played host to dozens of medal hopefuls during the Gator Nationals every February, not to mention hundreds of local riders who use the track every day.
The facility has had some structural and cosmetic issues over the years that required tweaks and repairs, but last month the track suddenly closed, with city officials citing structural issues with the earthen retaining walls as the reason, leading to Tuesday’s massive meeting turnout.
“(This track) has a lot of history just in the short time it’s been here,” Oldsmar BMX member Geofrey Ssengoba told the council, noting at least two Olympians have trained at the track in recent years. “Right now, we’re kind of in a bind just getting the track fixed, and we just want the council to know there’s definitely people in the area that want that (track) to stay there … and it all starts with your help getting the track back open.”
That thought was hammered home with one glance at the standing-room-only crowd, which Mayor Eric Seidel called the largest he’d ever seen in the Council Chambers.
In deference to the group, Seidel moved an agenda item calling for an engineering firm to do a full evaluation of the problem to the top of the meeting, where City Manager Al Braithwaite explained their planned course of action.
King Engineering Associates will provide professional engineering services to evaluate the mechanically stabilized walls at the Oldsmar BMX track, Braithwaite said. In support of the engineering analysis, the work order includes performance and geotechnical testing and analysis to determine the potential causes for the walls distress, he said.
Braithwaite noted the Tampa-based engineering firm would complete the work and submit a report within 105 days of approval, with a budget not to exceed $99,681.
Prior to the vote, Seidel reiterated the city’s desire to ensure the track is safe.
“Nobody wants this track fixed worse than the people up here,” he said. “But safety is always gonna be first. We’re not gonna let any kids get on it, any riders get on it, if we don’t know with 100 percent certainty that it’s safe. And unfortunately, that takes time.”
Seidel didn’t rule out opening a portion of the facility for Oldsmar BMX use after consulting with staff.
The item quickly passed, 5-0, with Ssengoba thanking the council for taking their concerns seriously.
After the meeting, Seidel praised the track supporters and vowed to make sure the problem is resolved.
“The strong meeting turnout was good to see. It only strengthens the council’s resolve to get this problem fixed,” he said. “I would like the track supporters to know the council is very committed to finding out what is causing the problems and what it will take to get it fixed. Safety is our first priority, but getting it fixed is a close second.”
In an email, Braithwaite reiterated those points.
“The City Council has been dedicated from the beginning to providing a world class experience for anyone who wants to participate in BMX, and that commitment has not wavered one bit,” Braithwaite wrote. “Rest assured that the track will not be permanently closing, and that the Council will find a way to make sure that BMX racing will continue in Oldsmar far into the future.
“While we don’t know exactly how long the repairs will take, or what specifically will be needed, the City Council of Oldsmar remains committed to keeping the jewel they created in place, and more importantly, ensuring the safety of those who use it. Hopefully, whatever it takes to fix it, will be permanent.”