Today, November 1, 2002, the sport of BMX has reached its biggest challenge ever. The challenge is to create peace among every track operator in the country and unify the sport, which we all so dearly love for one common goal, “GROWTH”. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to be involved in the sport of BMX for the past 25 years. I started as a bike shop owner in 1970, and then like many of you, became a parent of a BMX rider. From the beginning, I was amazed by the impact BMX had on my children and most importantly my family as a whole. From that point I realized that BMX was not just a sport but also a way of life. I then built and operated a track in Pennsylvania and watched my son go on to become a Pro. As a track operator during the infancy of BMX, I was faced with many challenges including several associations, sporadic races and overall disorganization. Over the past 25 years, with the guidance and support of countless BMX volunteers and enthusiasts, incredible changes have been made to organize the sport and bring it to the level it is today. BMX in the U.S. has funneled down from several associations to just two, NBL and ABA. Unfortunately, we have reached a point in our evolution that prevents us from realizing the true potential of BMX. The growth of the sport has stagnated; two great organizations have been cannibalizing each other by switching tracks and members from one organization to the other for far too long. During my 21 years at ABA, I have witnessed countless tracks closed by these battles and countless BMXers left with no place to race or became so disenchanted by the events taking place they simply left the sport.
As you may or may not know, the ABA has been approached by USA Cycling, the parent company of the NBL, with an offer to facilitate a merger between the two associations through a sale of the NBL. As a former track operator and as president of the ABA, I view this merger to be the most profound change to ever occur in BMX. This is our opportunity to truly take BMX to the next level!
To help reduce the potential animosities if and when this endeavor occurs, I feel it is important that I write this letter to address all the current nonsense and half-truths that are being spread across the nation about the possible merging of these two great organizations.
First of all this potential merger is not nor should be considered a hostile take over by the ABA. An offer was made to the ABA by USA Cycling. It was known from the beginning that USA Cycling board approval was required to complete the sale. The offer took us by surprise and we needed time to accept. After all aspects had been reviewed, we prepared a letter of intent and submitted it to USA Cycling, then proceeded to do some due diligence on the company to make sure it was capable of supporting the purchase price. We then prepared the articles of sale for the final approval at the November 5th USA Cycling board meeting.
I’m sure you are aware of all or most of what has been said or e-mailed in opposition to this sale. I am deeply saddened by the many rumors and alligations that are being sent to track directors and state commissioners. Let me assure you that these are simply misunderstandings and misconceptions of what the future can hold. I have heard rumors such as “$3 dollar water bottles at national events with no coolers allowed”, “$200 membership fees” and “elimination of state associations.” These comments are simply untrue! The potential merger of the two associations will only assure that these things will NOT happen! By streamlining the two associations and eliminating duplicity we will be able to maintain current insurance and membership rates without increased cost to tracks and members.
Let me explain the intentions of the ABA from the beginning, with regard to this merger. The NBL tracks will still operate exactly the same as they have, should the merger come to pass. The NBL tracks willl still be NBL tracks. NBL Members will still be NBL members. The scoring system will remain the same. The points system will continue as is. The NBL State Series and State Associations will remain the same. We have no intention of increasing prices for memberships, entry fees at Nationals or anything else that is already in place. Our job will be to make the transition as smooth as possible while providing an increased level of service and support to all members and tracks.
I have long thought about what it would be like to have one sanctioning body that could promote BMX and have it attain the prominence that we all feel it deserves in the sporting world. The sheer joy of promoting an entire sport and being able to offer nationwide exposure for every member and track operator is very exciting. The sheer usable numbers would involve adding the 11,000 plus races of the ABA and the 3,500 plus races of the NBL for the 2001 season, which equates to over one million participants. Add to that the spectators that attend the races and you have over three million people touched by our sport. Now those are numbers of which the networks will take notice. Whether we like it or not, numbers run this country and these can be just the tip of the iceberg.
We all know that NBL members have a loyalty to their sanction and a love for the sport. I realize that loyalty cannot be bought or sold it must be earned. Therefore, we have set out to earn that loyalty; from the NBL membership, to the NBL Track Directors, to the very last NBL supporter.
The fundamental idea is to grow the entire sport while increasing participation at every local track within each organization. This can be achieved by combining promotional ideas, services, tools, programs and experience from both associations and creating one major nationwide membership campaign. Ultimately these resources will assist the local tracks in realizing new levels of success. As a sanctioning body, our success depends on the success of each local track.
This should be the most exciting time for each and every person associated with the sport of BMX. Each association will have its own respective National Champions. Then add to that the impact a united sanctioning body, with an “American League” and a “National League”, would have on the media when a “World Series of BMX” is announced. Finally there would be true National Champions in the Amateur, Girl, Cruiser, Girl Cruiser, Pro Cruiser, Veteran Pro, Girl Pro and AA Pro classes, as well as for the overall Factory, Bike Shop and Trophy Teams.
The excitement does not stop there as the ABA has added to the sales agreement an incentive to USA Cycling if the sport of BMX is included into the 2008 Beijing, China Olympics. Also, in the agreement USA Cycling will be tapping the BMX community for potential Olympic athletes. Each year the top 25 riders in the country will be invited to a two-week training camp to determine if they would be suitable candidates for the existing US cycling sports currently in the Olympics. Also all members will retain the affiliation with the UCI for the UCI World Championships and the ABA has agreed to discontinue the ABA World Championships should the merger go through.
As the ABA President, a former track operator and a grandfather of three BMX racers, I can tell you the need to unite has never been stronger for the sport. It is time to set aside the differences and the individual desires and focus on what will best serve the sport, the youth and their future.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments. I can be reached at [email protected]