This Sunday marks the end of an era for Orange Y BMX, the oldest BMX track in southern California and a place hallowed in the sport. The facility, which has served locals for the past 40 years, will close its gates with a final race after a failure to come to an agreement on a new lease rate with the YMCA of Orange.
The Orange Y BMX track was founded in 1976 when local parents approached the YMCA about converting the landfill on its property into a BMX track to keep their children busy. “They couldn't develop anything on it,” says Ruben Sanchez, owner of the Bike Alley bike store in Orange and the track’s manager for the past 16 years. “That's why the BMX track is the perfect fit.”
On a weekly basis, Sanchez says the track receives about 500 riders and their families. According to Sanchez, he was spending $1,500 a month in 2012 to lease the property. Right now, Sanchez says he pays about $4,400 a month in order to keep the track running. In addition to the rent that has steadily increased year after year, Sanchez says that the YMCA has also restricted access to the facility's parking lot, snack bar and bathrooms, causing him to have to incur additional costs for Porta Potty rentals. As a result of the restrictions, he says the track had to forgo hosting the BMX state championships and pass the event on to a more suitable track in San Diego.
“There was no negotiation unless I was willing to pay $10,000 [per month], which I wasn’t,” Sanchez says. “It’s just not feasible to keep the track open for that amount.”
The Weekly reached out to the YMCA of Orange, which declined comment. In a public statement on their website, the organization stated:
“Contrary to the inaccurate statements made by, or on behalf of, the track operator, we adamantly deny that our organization requested an absurd monthly lease rate...Given the recent developments, the YMCA of Orange will embark on a community needs assessment in the future, as we strive to maximize our assets in an effort to address community needs,” the YMCA said. “The last day of BMX programming on our property will be August 31, 2016.
Since its inception, the Orange Y BMX track has been a beloved destination for a variety of riders from the recreational level all the way to the amateur and professional ranks. “Orange Y was the mecca of BMX when I came into the sport,” says Kory Cook, a 26-year-old professional BMX rider from Tustin. “Before the Olympic Training Center went down in Chula Vista, Orange Y was the location where all the top pros in the world would come train and live.”
Cook started riding on the track in 1994. On top of training there almost every day, Cook runs clinics, summer camps and even provides one-on-one coaching for the local children. “I grew up on that track,” Cook says. “My childhood; Friday nights; Sunday nights; All of it was spent on that track. To me it’s everything. It’s my career.”
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Jeff Coloman, a parent who uses BMX to motivate his children to do well in school, says that he could accept the fact that the track is closing if the YMCA had a well-laid out plan for the future of the space. “There should be some transparency here, but there isn’t,” Coloman told the Weekly.
For Matt Huddleston, a native of Placentia whose children call the Orange Y their second home, the track is an iconic piece of Orange County history that must be saved. Because of BMX, his eight-year-old son, Taylor, has had the opportunity to travel the country, competing in national competitions and international competitions.
“I don’t know where this is going to lead us,” Huddleston says. “It’s just awful. Us parents have so much invested in this and have spent so much time that the YMCA is really adversely affecting a lot of the community with this decision. I think they owe it to the parents to meet with us face to face because we have some very legitimate questions and concerns."
"It’s just going to be devastating," Huddleston concluded, "if we can’t come to some sort of last-minute agreement to keep the track open.”