The first time John David ever came to Tulsa, he turned to the director of the USA BMX Grand Nationals with a simple question.
“Why Tulsa?” said David, the chief operating officer of USA BMX. “Why is this event, the biggest event in our sport, in Tulsa?
“The more I’ve come here, the more I’ve understood why we wanted to be here. Tulsa is the absolute best place for USA BMX.”
The USA BMX Grand Nationals is the sport’s largest race. This November will be the 20th straight year that the event will be held in Tulsa.
Its successful history helped spur a decision by USA BMX to move its headquarters from Phoenix to Tulsa, a move that took a few twists last summer.
USA BMX originally committed to build its national headquarters, including the world’s most deluxe BMX stadium, at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. However, that deal fell through last summer and city officials scrambled to find a new location.
A revised Vision Tulsa Plan was unveiled in July to move the headquarters/stadium to downtown’s long-empty Evans-Fintube industrial site, near Archer Street and Lansing Avenue.
David was among four speakers at last week’s Tulsa Regional Tourism Annual Meeting. After the meeting, he told the Tulsa World that he never doubted his organization, an Olympic-level sport, would follow through on the commitment to come to Tulsa.
USA BMX “never wavered, never doubted” it would be moving to Tulsa.
He also said a timeline for being fully moved and operational in time for the 2020 USA Olympic Trials in Tulsa are on target.
“That has not changed,” David said. “We firmly believe we will be ready in time to host the trials here in Tulsa.
“That was our original plan and that is still our timeline. Yes, we’ve had a change in plans but we believe we’re still on target to be here sometime in 2019.”
Nick Doctor, chief of community development and policy for the mayor’s office, said the environmental studies are completed and remediation is underway at the Evans-Fintube site.
Construction on the future home of USA BMX will not begin until the site cleanup is complete.
“Everything looks to point toward that timeline of 2019-2020,” Doctor said. “Everything is looking great.”
David said he felt the collapse of a deal that would have put the new headquarters/stadium near the site of the former Drillers Stadium “is just a part of business. Sometimes, when you start looking at all the details, things change.”
It did not change his opinion of Tulsa.
“I always felt like it was more of a hiccup than anything else,” said David. “When you get into contract talks things always change.
“But Tulsa is where we wanted to be and that never changed.”
USA BMX considers the shift from Expo Square to a downtown location “to be a great thing. We see all of the development and excitement around downtown. To be a part of the redevelopment of an area, a historic area, is very exciting to us.”
BMX is moving to Tulsa from Phoenix, where it was headquartered during the transformation of BMX from recreational regional sport to a worldwide action sport now included in the Olympic program.
“When we started looking around we had a lot of choices,” said David. “We had some very nice options.
“We just felt like our relationship with Tulsa really aligns with what we wanted to do and what we wanted to be.”
USA BMX conducts 30 major events around the country every year. As a result, it works “hand-in-hand with sports commissions and people in 30 major cities. Tulsa was always the absolute best.”
That includes a lot of major cities like Dallas.
“Even against a major market like Dallas, Tulsa always stood out,” David said. “The people here just do an incredible job.
“Just look at how well Tulsa does with events like the Bassmasters Classic, NCAA and Big 12. They know how to handle big events.”
Tulsa has also played host to seven major golf championships, and soon to be an eighth major, with the announcement of an upcoming PGA Championships at Southern Hills Country Club.
Tulsa found itself in a competition with other cities like Oklahoma City, Austin and Louisville and many others for USA BMX.
“But we had worked hand-in-hand with the Tulsa Sports Commission for many years to bring our biggest events to this city,” said David. “We knew what we had here. There is just so much here that aligned with what we wanted. The people we have worked with here over the years are just good. This is where we wanted to be.
“And that never wavered. Not one second. We can’t wait to get here and start being a part of this community.”