The X Games are going from the glitz of Los Angeles to deep in the heart of Texas.
Athletes with skateboards and motorcycles will be competing in the Texas capital after ESPN announced Wednesday that Austin will be the next North American host city for the X Games.
"Austin over the last several years has really become synonymous with supporting big events," said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president, ESPN programming and X Games. "The music scene is fantastic. The night life is fantastic and definitely a young, active town."
The home to the University of Texas also has the new Circuit of the Americas sports and entertainment complex, which will be the primary site for X Games Austin. The 1,500-acre complex opened in November by hosting the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix and held a MotoGP motorcycle race in April.
Austin was selected over three other finalists: Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte, N.C. There were initially 13 qualified bids for the Olympic-style selection process, with Austin picked to host for four years starting next May 15-18.
"X Games is a great action sports competition and is an ideal fit for the city of Austin, which has a tremendous fitness orientation, a tremendous action sports community," said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of the Americas.
Sexton said 16-18 X Games athletes live in Austin, and that a "couple of thousand people" showed up at the State Capitol to watch an exhibition when Austin was announced as one of the four finalists earlier this year.
X Games is nearing the end of its first year of global expansion and transformation, with events already held in Aspen, Colo., France, Brazil, Spain and Germany.
The X Games will wrap up an 11-year run in Los Angeles with this summer's event Aug. 1-4.
"L.A. clearly, Southern California, it's a special home when it comes to action sports and that whole culture, no question about it," Guglielmino said. "But we felt like it was time to move the X Games to a new venue, a new city. We leave Los Angeles with a lot of great memories, certainly. ... We leave after quite a good and prosperous stay, but definitely looking forward to getting to Austin and really growing out the event."
Aspen has been the host of the winter X Games since 2002, but its contract expires after next year's event. Bidding to host winter competition in the United States just ended, with the next site likely to be picked in early 2014.
There are about 350 fully developed acres at Circuit of the Americas, including the 3.4-mile race track with 20 turns, an expansive outdoor live music space for 14,000 spectators and a 25-story observation tower. There is a pit/paddock building with 34 garage bays and two upper levels of hospitality space, and a 44,000-square-foot event center.
Sexton expects at least 100,000 spectators for the four days of competition.
"The ability to host the X Games fits into our overall strategy, to have a multidimensional entertainment and sports destination," Sexton said. "We're more than motor sports. The X Games is kind of one of the first of many steps in the process."
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