by: Greg Suskin Updated:
ROCK HILL, S.C. - On Saturday morning, thousands of people from across the globe will be in Rock Hill for an unveiling like no other.
The city will become only the second place in the nation to have an Olympic-caliber BMX supercross track. The only other track like it is in Chula Vista, California.
For years, that track has been the training facility for the U.S. Olympic BMX team. Rock hill could soon become another training hub.
The $7 million project in the Riverwalk community has already attracted two major events in the coming years, but Olympic bikers from around the world showed up Friday, to walk the track, and give it a look. City crews have been working feverishly to get the place ready for a late august opening.
Mariana Pajon won a gold medal for Colombia in the 2012 London games. She's been on a bike competing since she was only 5. She told Channel 9 that her native country has nothing like the new track in Rock Hill.
"Rock Hill has an amazing track, and we're just happy to be here. I can't wait to ride on it," she said.
City officials have called the complex a landmark facility for the area, even beyond Rock Hill.
The track, combined with the nearby Velodrome, which already hosts international races, is a centerpiece of rock hill's drive to put the city on the map when it comes to sports tourism.
It was tourists who largely footed the bill for the facility, as hospitality tax money was used to build it.
Donny Robinson, a bronze medalist in the Beijing games from California, and former world champion, is beyond excited.
"Walking out on the track for the first time it was unbelievable. It was everything we could ever hope or dream for," he said.
Robinson said having a facility like this one on the east coast will help boost the sport, which is still relatively unknown.
“It's not just for the pros, but for kids who want to embrace this sport and learn it," he said.
Expectations are also high that thousands of visitors will descend on the area to see world cup, and championship events. City officials are hoping for an economic impact of somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to ten million dollars for those events.
Saturday's grand opening ceremony is at 10 a.m., and will also feature racing demonstrations.
The BMX track will be open to the public by next week.
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