Minneapolis was the site of skateboarding legend Bob Burnquist’s final X Games run last summer. Earlier that July weekend, the first Japanese skateboarder won an X Games gold.
Now Minneapolis is set to host more summer X Games than any city outside of Los Angeles.
ESPN and Minneapolis agreed to a two-year extension that will be announced Tuesday, meaning skateboarders, BMX and motocross riders will fly through the air inside U.S. Bank Stadium at least through the summer of 2020. A four-year run in Minneapolis marks the summer games’ longest since Los Angeles hosted for 11 consecutive years.
“There’s something to be said for the stadium. It’s a great experience for a lot of events, particularly ours,” ESPN Vice President Tim Reed said. “You can see a variety of events happen from one vantage point. We were really happy with how last summer went and we’re optimistic it’ll be that much better this year.”
Announced crowds of nearly 110,000 filed through U.S. Bank Stadium and Mall of America doors to watch last summer’s X Games, the first held in Minneapolis. The summer events have bounced around from Philadelphia, Rhode Island, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, since the X Games started in 1995.
All events — from the MegaRamp to the skateboard parks — will again fit like a Tetris puzzle inside U.S. Bank Stadium this summer. General admission is slated to cost $20 to $40 per day July 20-22. The opening events on July 19, BMX and Skateboard Vert in the halfpipe, are free to attend.
Skateboarder and X Games medalist Alec Majerus, from Rochester, wants to see the games’ extended presence in his “backyard” stir up interest in action sports and lead to more local skate parks. Local professionals like Majerus and Stillwater’s Nicole House relied on homemade ramps inside garages and barns while coming of age.
Majerus, who won silver last summer in men’s skateboard street, is looking forward to further exposure for family and friends. His grandmother saw the 22-year-old Majerus compete for the first time last summer at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I had a lot of friends from high school [attend] that didn’t have really any idea of skateboarding and how it works,” Majerus said. “They got to see how it all works.”
ESPN hopes to increase attendance over the next three summer weekends in Minneapolis. This summer’s games will feature the same disciplines, about 19 of them, according to Reed. The main attraction again is the 365-foot long MegaRamp, soaring nearly nine stories into the air and sending its riders above the stadium’s second-level concourse.
No major changes are expected.
“It’s really more about fine-tuning and tweaking some things,” Reed said.
Better centralizing the events is a priority for ESPN. This time around, the Harley Davidson Flat Track Racing event will join the rest of the party by moving from the Mall of America to U.S. Bank Stadium. Those motorcycle races will help end the games on Sunday, July 22.
The X Games are now a longer-term fixture in the Twin Cities’ burgeoning sports scene, which featured February’s Super Bowl and will also include next year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.
Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis, called the longevity of the partnership a “wonderful win” for the city. ESPN again expects to air 19 hours of coverage from Minneapolis across its ABC and ESPN television platforms.
“While we certainly loved the fact the Super Bowl is here,” Tennant said, “we’re not certain when we’ll get it back. We’ll certainly look to get another Final Four in the future, but I think a major event with the international reputation of the X Games for four years in the community will be a wonderful win.”