For years, all Tulsans ever heard about the BMX track coming to town were promises.
Now it’s springing out of the ground north of downtown, and fast. And boy, is it big: about a football field and a half long, nearly a football field wide, and more than three stories tall.
“It has been cool watching the city of Tulsa, Todd Architecture and Nabholz (work),” said Shane Fernandez, president of USA BMX. “Things have all really been clicking. I’m really proud of all that.”
After years of starts and stops, the covered, open-air arena is nearly 50% complete and on schedule to be finished by the end of the year.
“I would love to hit the ground running Jan. 1,” Fernandez said.
The $23 million project includes a recessed Olympic-quality racing track that will have starting hills for both amateur riders and the pros. The cavernous 2,000-seat arena has no interior columns.
“They call that structure a free span, so there are no intermediate columns within the arena,” Fernandez said. “The reason for that is for safety, obviously. Especially the pros are getting up to speeds of 40 mile per hour, so we don’t want anybody hitting a steel column.”
The development also includes a 25,000-square-foot headquarters and Hall of Fame building south of the arena. The building will have an exterior balcony that looks over the arena.
In addition to office space and the Hall of Fame, the two-story structure will include training and conference rooms, concessions and a catering kitchen.
Fernandez said that once the BMX facility opens next year, it will be busy with weekly local races and practices and as many as five national or World Cup events a year.
But he’s equally enthusiastic about the STEM programming and other outreach work the USA BMX Foundation and the track have planned for the community.
Those efforts are expected to begin the week of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre commemoration in late May and early June.
“What is really cool now, as the building is coming up, we are really starting to make the plans of how we are going to engage the community outside of just racing,” Fernandez said. “Our foundation is working with Dr. (Tiffany) Crutcher to launch an at-risk program for north Tulsa youth.”
The plaza area south of the arena will feature artwork from Shane Darwent that reflects the important history of the area.
“They did an amazing job of embracing the history of the Race Massacre and tying it to BMX and youth development,” Fernandez said. “That artwork is magnificent, so that has been exciting to see, and it is coming to life.”
The project is being funded with $15 million in Vision Tulsa revenue, $6.5 million in city funds and a $1.5 million donation from the Hardesty Family Foundation to USA BMX.
City officials originally had hoped to build the BMX facilities at Expo Square, but after that option fell through, it was moved to the city-owned vacant Evans-Fintube industrial site north of downtown as part of a broader effort to help revitalize the historic Greenwood District.
The Fintube building, on the north end of the site, was taken down to make room for 312 parking spaces.
The Evans building to the south, also known as the Oklahoma Iron Works Building, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It will remain on the property and be incorporated into the city’s request for proposals for a mixed-use development on the site.