GREAT FALLS -- The Electric City BMX track is open for business with social distancing and sanitation guidelines in place. Races started last week and, according to track operator Brett Korst, turnout is at an all-time high.
“I think people are really looking for something to do to get out outdoors finally and get together and get things back to normal,” Korst said. “So that's what we've tried to bring back to the people here this year, and we're seeing some great numbers. This has been the most people I've seen come out to the track in all the years I've been racing, and I've been racing since I was 8 years old.”
The track is taking the necessary precautions to keep riders and spectators safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Just practicing our social distancing,” Korst said. “We have sanitizing stations at the concessions areas and in line at registration. But everyone here only touches their own bikes and gear, so we have it easier than some sports.”
As racers line up at the gates, there is one competitor who stands out among the many young people in attendances.
Eighty-year-old Charlie Rossell took up the sport last July as a way to stay in shape for vintage motorcycle racing. A return to the track amid uncertainty around the pandemic was a huge relief for the retired educator.
“All of my vintage races are canceled through the spring, and my next one is in Lewiston, Idaho but not until June 14,” Rossell said. “So, we'll have a lot of racing in here before then.”
Rossell taught at Great Falls CMR and the Great Falls College of Technology for more than 40 years. He’s a lifelong motorcycle lover but only started racing at age 75.
“When my late wife passed away, she said she knew I liked motorcycles. But it was one of those things that when we were married, and my son wasn't interested in motorcycles, and so I kind of sold all my bikes,” Rossell said. “So, she told me to get back into it because it would be something you do and think about us together. And she was right.”
Rossell had never considered BMX until he attended a race. The learning curve was steep.
“I crashed twice on the first race,” he laughed. “And then kind of settled down a little bit and then started getting a little more serious about it.”
Though Rossell is the oldest competitor by 15 years and might look out of place next to his young peers, he’s exactly where he belongs.
“That's what's really fun is to be connected to the young kids in a competitive nature, which very few people would get to see that,” Rossell said. “I mean, how many seniors get to compete against an 8-year-old or a 12-year-old? It's kind of an equalizing factor.”
The track offers something for all ages, genders and skill levels, which is something Korst is proud of.
“I look forward to racing every year,” he said. “We got kids 5 years old up to guys like Charlie that are 80 years old that race out here. We have a great community.”
The track, located at 1200 21st Ave. South, hosts races on Tuesday, Thursday and every other Sunday with practices on Monday night. For more information visit ecbmx.org or the Electric City BMX Facebook page.