Last hurrah for BMX racing enthusiasts Md.'s only such track moving to Charles Co.

August 21, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

The operators of the Columbia BMX Supertrack are rolling on -- to Charles County.

Darrin Alexander and Sandy Chang say they have found a new home for the state's only BMX track at Budd's Creek Motocross Park in Leonardtown. The owner of that park plans to build a new BMX track there by Aug. 31.

The Columbia BMX track was ordered closed by the Rouse Co. by the end of this month to make way for a new 55,000-square-foot Safeway grocery store in the beleaguered Harper's Choice Village Center in west Columbia.

"I'm happy I'm making a fresh new start after this whole thing," Alexander said yesterday. "I'm sad I have to go all the way across Maryland" to continue to operate a BMX track.

For 18 years, the quarter-mile dirt track attracted bicyclists -- mainly young children and teens -- from across the state to its bumps and hills. Races were held on Sundays, and the public used the track during the week.

On Sunday, the track will see its final race -- state championships for cash prizes and plaques. Last year, the track was rated No. 1 on the East Coast by the American Bicycle Association, which began promoting BMX racing in 1977, Alexander said.

In BMX, or bicycle motocross, competitors ride low-slung, single-speed, knobby-tired bikes across dirt banks and hills. The sport originated in the 1970s, fell out of favor, then rebounded after the mountain-biking craze of the 1990s.

About 2 p.m. yesterday, 10 youngsters sped up and down hills on a huge mound of dirt, trying to get in their last rides.

"This means a lot to me," said Robert Lubitz, 13, standing among a group of young riders on the track's starting platform. "I've spent a lot of my growing-up years here. I've met a lot of my friends here, like Oliver and Mark."

His friends -- Mark Kessi, 13, and Oliver Cima, 13, also eighth-graders at Harper's Choice Middle School -- agreed.

"It's sad," Mark said. "It's a place I can come to if I'm feeling down and do what I like to do."

Oliver said he doubts that his parents will make the more than one-hour drive to Leonardtown.

Alexander said other BMX tracks will open this year across the state to help fill the void, perhaps including one in Harford County.

The Columbia track, located behind the Harper's Choice Village Center on Rouse Co. land, was forced to close because of a move to revitalize the village center with a more modern and larger grocery store. The center's previous grocery and anchor, Valu Food, left in December.

The new Safeway is scheduled to open late next year. Construction could start this fall.

The track's owners have used the land rent-free under a license agreement that gave Rouse the right to reclaim the property at any time, Rouse Co. officials said.

In March, just weeks after taking over the BMX business from previous owner Kenny Allen, Alexander got a letter telling him to vacate the premises. He and parents of the young bicycle riders asked Rouse for an extension.

The Rouse Co. granted the track's owners two reprieves -- one through July 31 and a second through Aug. 31.

"I'm pleased that he found a track," said Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president for the Rouse Co.

But now the ride is almost over.

Bill Schaub, a welder from White Marsh, often brought his sons, John and Justin, to the track. "The boys like it so much it's worth the travel to me," he said yesterday as he sat in the shade while his sons rode their bicycles in the blazing sun.

"This is kind of like our last hurrah," he said, referring to the end of summer vacation.

Sunday will be the last for the Columbia track.

"You've only got one show in town and that's it," said Alexander, the track's operator. "They pulled the plug."

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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