Lasek lands the 360 he's dreamed about

Skateboarding star comes home in June for Panasonic Open

Action sports

March 21, 2007|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN REPORTER

Bucky Lasek figures that on television, the amazing tricks he performs on a skateboard look just like the feats kids glimpse in Spider-Man cartoons.

But in person? "They can see there's no strings," he said.

That's why the Baltimore native is so excited that the ASPT Dew Tour is coming to his hometown in June. For years, local skating, BMX and motocross lovers have had to catch their favorite performers on television. But finally, they'll be able to watch stars such as Lasek soar above the parking lots around M&T Bank Stadium in person.

"Guys have gotten so good that you just can't take your eyes off it," Lasek said at a news conference yesterday.

Baltimore will host the Panasonic Open from June 21-24. The event is the annual kickoff for the five-stop Dew Tour, the largest national showcase for "action sports" athletes outside of ESPN's X Games. NBC, which owns a portion of the tour, will televise the event from Baltimore on June 23-24.

The tour will haul in hundreds of tons of dirt, a hulking vertical ramp and several grandstands to stage its sporting carnival outdoors at the Camden Yards sports complex. The event will feature live music, merchandising tents and other trappings of a major festival.

But the athletes - including Lasek and perhaps Annapolis native and motocross star Travis Pastrana - and their tricks will be the main attractions.

Lasek joked yesterday that motorists cruising onto I-395 may crash when they see motorcycles suddenly flipping into view, some 50 feet in the air.

The Panasonic Open was held in Louisville, Ky., in 2005 and 2006, but Dew Tour officials quietly began searching for another venue over the winter. Baltimore offered the warehouse at Camden Yards as a backdrop and easy access to Philadelphia and New York.

"There was a big push from our end to get an event on the East Coast," tour president Wade Martin said. "So this was probably us chasing Baltimore more than the other way around."

The Maryland Stadium Authority, meanwhile, has tried to attract more national events to the Camden Yards complex in recent years so it does not lie dormant when the Ravens and Orioles aren't playing.

The Kentucky Sports Authority estimated that last year's Panasonic Open drew 41,000 and brought $2.8 million in economic impact to the Louisville area. And tour officials said they expect bigger crowds and more spending in Baltimore.

Dew Tour officials said they hope to keep the event in Baltimore but have only committed to this year, with next year likely, assuming it can be scheduled around Orioles games.

Lasek, 34, imagined performing in Baltimore from the earliest days of the Dew Tour in 2005. He was disappointed in the crowds at some stops and remembered telling fellow skaters that the stands would never be so empty in his hometown.

"I knew that if I just got on TV for a few days beforehand, we could fill it up," he said.

Though he lives in California, Lasek comes home several times a year to show his children where he grew up. He developed his first tricks as a 12-year-old, experimenting with his board in a concreted ditch off Holabird Avenue in Dundalk. In the two decades since, he has become one of the most decorated skaters in history.

Lasek looked a bit out of place among all the suits at yesterday's news conference, a slight figure with shaggy brown curls spilling out from under his Orioles cap. "I'm not much of a talker," he said. "I'm a doer."

But he never lost faith that his sport would spread to the bigger stage it now occupies.

"I always thought that if it was something I liked doing as much as I did," Lasek said, "it was only a matter of time for everyone else."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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