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L.A.’s final X Games begin today

Credit: X Games

The X Games begin their 11th consecutive and final year in the Los Angeles area today before moving to Austin, Texas.

The extreme sports competition is moving to fulfill a desire to find “a venue where we could grow the event,” according to Chris Stiepock, vice president X Games events.

“It’s hard to put these nontraditional sports in traditional sporting venues,” Stiepock told City News Service. “Sometimes, they just don’t fit. We had a desire to find venues that could accommodate more people and accommodate bigger features and bigger courses.”

The proposed Farmers Field football stadium was another factor in the move, Stiepock said.

X Games executives “a couple of years ago” met with their counterparts from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live, two X Games venues,  and AEG’s plans to build Farmers Field, which would be adjacent to Staples Center and L.A. Live, were discussed, Stiepock said.

“The construction timelines coincided with our event and we were not sure we could hold the event during the construction process, so we embarked on the bid process,” Stiepock said.

Long Beach and Pasadena were among the 12 U.S. cities but failed to make the final four, which consisted of Charlotte, N.C., Chicago and Detroit, in addition to Austin.

Stiepock praised Long Beach as “a great event place” for its hosting of the Toyota Grand Prix auto race, but “we just felt it was time to move.”

In Austin, the X Games will be held at the Circuit of The Americas, which opened in October and is billed as a “world-class performance, education and business center,” featuring a 3.4-mile circuit auto racing track with capacity for 120,000 fans and an open-air amphitheater with a capacity of 14,000, where the X Games musical performances will be held.

“It has all of the infrastructure that we need,” including parking and a video screen, Stiepock said.

The X Games, which are controlled and arranged by the all-sports cable network ESPN, began in 1995 in Providence, R.I., as the Extreme Games. It was renamed the X Games in 1997, and held in Providence, San Diego, San Francisco and Philadelphia for two years each before coming to Los Angeles in 2003, receiving a contract through 2009, which was later extended.

The benefits of holding the X Games in the Los Angeles area included the presence in the region to “all of the companies who support the athletes  in our event” which “enabled us to have a dialogue and relationships with them,” including discussions about the size of ramps the competitors perform on, Stiepock said.

“That allowed us to put a product on the television screen that was more and more mature each year,” Stiepock said.

Changes to this year’s X Games include the addition of a new event, gymkhana, an auto race on an obstacle-filled course where drivers are required to perform 180- and 360-degree spins, drifting, figure eights and other advanced skills; a new venue, the Irwindale Event Center, where the skateboard big air, BMX big air, gymkhana and rallycross events will be held; and the move of the skateboard vert ramp from the Nokia Theatre to the Event Deck at L.A. Live.

Finals in five events will be held today — skateboard SLS select series and women’s skateboard street at L.A. Live, moto X best whip and moto x freestyle at Staples Center and skateboard big air at the Irwindale Event Center.

The X Games will continue through Sunday.

Steven Herbert | City News Service