For the seventh consecutive year, the Quad-Cities will host the only indoor concrete BMX race track in the U.S., probably the world, organizers say.
A volunteer crew with the East Moline BMX Speedway installed the temporary course this week in the exhibition hall at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Ave., Rock Island. The 600-foot track features three table-top jumps and two flat turns, one of which requires racers to navigate an extremely tight corner.
“In the late ’70s and early ’80s, this is all you could find,” said Paul DePauw, track operator of Rock Island Indoor BMX. “But as the years went by, this cement stuff just became extinct.”
Concrete courses — cement is an ingredient in concrete — disappeared to make way for permanent dirt tracks, DePauw said. He remembers racing on the former indoor concrete track at the Rock Island Armory, long before the building was demolished in 2009.
The nonprofit organization that manages area outdoor and indoor tracks rents the space from the Quad-City Conservation Alliance, a fellow nonprofit group.
“We’re really more into the fishing and hunting stuff, but bike riding is good, too,” said Rob Junker, the QCCA show director. “We’re interested in getting kids off the couch and learning how to do stuff like BMX.”
DePauw, who praised the QCCA for providing the venue at an affordable rate, plans to run a series of eight races through Jan. 1. The first event begins at 7 p.m. tonight. DePauw expects upward of 150 riders at the New Year’s Day race, an Illinois state qualifier. There will not be any races between Dec. 16-31.
Three youth riders tested out part of the track during setup Wednesday night.
“Dude,” said Brady Fugate, 14, of Davenport. “I’m so excited for this.”
He compared the stop-and-go, hit-and-run action on the slick indoor surface to “bumper cars on bikes.”
“It’s scary,” said Fugate, who dons a helmet, neck brace, elbow pads, knee pads and a chest guard for competition. “But scary’s good.”
The upcoming adrenaline-inducing contests may draw people from across the country, DePauw said.
“There’s no other sanctioned track that races cement,” he continued. “There’s nothing weirder than this.”
DePauw likened the experience to a “high-speed chess match.”
“A lot of new-school people run scared before they even try it because this is foreign to them, but once kids try it, they’re like, ‘this is the…