Kicking up some dirt

Action sports event starts today at Camden Yards Sports Complex

Panasonic Open

June 19, 2008|By Stefen Lovelace | Stefen Lovelace,Sun Reporter

Six days.

That's all it takes to turn the parking lot at Camden Yards Sports Complex into an action sports fan's dream. That's all it takes to build towering ramps, steep rails and huge mounds of dirt for athletes to perform gravity-defying tricks on.

The Dew Tour's Panasonic Open starts today in Baltimore and will feature some of the best athletes on skateboards, bikes and motorcycles from around the world, battling for points and prize money. The Panasonic Open is the Dew Tour's first stop, and course designers have been in Baltimore for the past week, constructing courses that challenge riders and help produce exciting entertainment for the fans.

Murphy Production is the management team that handles all the structures, logistics and operations of the tour. It designed the tour's skate and bike parks.

"We designed the courses a few years ago specifically for touring purposes," said Jack Murphy, owner and president of Murphy Production. "The system was designed to have multiple applications for designs; you just have to use different pieces. All in all for Baltimore, we have over 10,000 pieces for all the courses."

Murphy and his crew of about 40 arrived in Baltimore late last Thursday and finished the course yesterday. Forty to 50 workers from around Baltimore were also hired to help construct the parks.

While Murphy's crew was building the parks, professional bicycle moto crosser and official Dew Tour course designer Tim "Fuzzy" Hall and his crew of four were working on the dirt courses.

Hall said that about 1,200 yards of dirt is brought in for the bicycle motocross (BMX) course and 6000 for the freestyle motocross (FMX) course. Hall's crew was able to construct the dirt courses in three 12-hour days.

"The key to a successful dirt course is all about how far apart the hills are. It's all about spacing," Hall said. "If you're off one foot, it can affect the next jump that riders are doing tricks on, and it'll pretty much dead-end the whole course."

Because the tour was in Baltimore last year, Hall's crew knows what works and what doesn't.

"You know what you're up against," Hall said. "There's lots of clay and dirt, but we need to mix in some cement to harden it up so it doesn't break apart like it did last year. I think it'll be a lot better than last year, that's for sure."

The Dew Tour enlisted the expertise of Bucky Lasek, a Baltimore native and top skateboard vert competitor, and Jamie Bestwick, a top BMX vert competitor, to design the vertical ramps for the tour.

"Looking at vert ramps, you need to have a very fast-paced ramp," Bestwick said. "You want something not complicated, easier to watch and allows for big tricks to happen."

Bestwick won the BMX Vert Dew Cup last year, which was his third Vert Cup title in a row. He took first at the Panasonic Open last season, giving him a great start to the tour.

Winning the Baltimore stop goes a long way toward an athlete winning the Cup. Last year, every Cup winner from the six events got first at the Panasonic Open.

"It's always a highly anticipated stop, the first one," Bestwick said. "It's the first run of the year in one of the most important stops and everyone wants to get that head start. Everybody wants to get those early points. It's a nerve-wracking event."

The Baltimore stop was an athlete favorite last year, and many are glad to see it again this year.

"Last year it was one of the new cities [on the tour], and the city was super cool," said Greg Lutzka, who finished second overall last year for the Skateboard Park Dew Cup. "I think the Baltimore stop is going to be rad, and I'm super psyched."

stefen.lovelace@baltsun.com

DEW TOUR

What -- AST Dew Tour's Panasonic Open

When -- Today-Sunday

Where -- Camden Yards Sports Complex

Tickets -- Available through Ticketmaster now or through M&T Bank Stadium on the days of the event. Four-day pass, $35; daily, $15; daily children (12 and under), $7.50; reserved seating, $35; premium seating, $100.

TV -- Friday, midnight-1 a.m. [USA]; Saturday, 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. [chs. 11, 4], midnight-1 a.m. [USA]; Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. [chs. 11, 4].

Web site -- www.ast.com

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