Contrary to earlier reports, an ESPN spokesperson we spoke with this afternoon said that state funding had nothing to do with their decision to move the X Games out of Austin. Rather, they’d like to move the Summer X Games back to late July or early August when the weather in Austin is simply too hot to handle.
Austin’s Circuit of the Americas will host the X Games this year on June 2-5 before the series moves on to another venue. The Formula One-grade circuit boasts a year-round open season due to the area’s lack of winter weather. However, it’s best to leave summer use to the locals and save large spectator events for cooler months if you want to have any hope of attracting many out-of-towners.
Austin’s summer weather just doesn’t jive with the Summer X Games, which have actually been held in late spring for the past couple years in order to work around Austin’s this-heat-will-kill-you zone later in the year.
Problem is, there’s a host of other sporting events, such as the NBA playoffs, which happen in late spring. Promoting the X Games on top of everything else has reduced its viewership, as late spring is simply too busy for the X Games to get the standalone attention ESPN would prefer.
Thus, the ESPN spokesperson said that the broadcaster has come to a mutual agreement with COTA to end Austin’s X Games run a year earlier than planned, and open up the bidding for another city to step in for 2017 and 2018. ESPN is looking for a location that would be able to host the X Games in late July or early August in order to move it back to a less crowded spot on their calendar.
They also noted that the race typically moves every couple years anyway in order to allow new people in other areas to experience action sports in person. Austin’s original agreement with ESPN was unusually long, and the next one will be back the X Games’ usual two-year run.
However, this isn’t to say that financial issues with the event didn’t play a role somewhere in the decision to move the 2017 X Games. COTA Chairman and CEO Bobby Epstein released the following statement on the X Games’ quest for more temperate pastures, where he admits that finances certainly played a role in the circuit’s side of the decision to agree to end the X Games run in Austin early:
It was great having X Games in Austin, and we’re glad the Circuit of The Americas could host them, but it just didn’t make economic sense to continue. For ESPN, it’s certainly optimal to hold the event when X Games programming doesn’t conflict with major sporting events such as the NBA playoffs and moving the event to August would likely prove less than ideal. We’re pleased that many Texans got to enjoy the fun and competition that the X Games delivers and know the event earned many new followers. ESPN is a great organization, with many wonderful people, and we’re glad to have had the opportunity to work with them. I hope everyone comes out June 2-5 and shows their appreciation. ESPN is rightfully proud of their X Games franchise, as it has - for many years - brought great entertainment to millions of fans.
Even in May and June, an outdoor daytime event in Texas is a hard sell, with muggy temperatures reaching into the nineties. Those of us who live here either expect it and stay inside as much as possible, or flee to somewhere else accordingly. It’s very hard to convince out-of-towners to come at all even in late Spring, much less to come back after they’ve had the unpleasant experience of standing on
the surface of the sun a paved race track with very little shade in the Texas heat.
Needless to say, I’m not exactly surprised to hear that the Summer X Games here in Austin weren’t a runaway success. Disappointed, sure. I’m a sucker for people jumping stuff in the air, loud concerts and neat stunts. But surprised? Nah.
Uncertainties around the recently revised requirements for Texas Major Events Trust Fund contributions were not singled out in Epstein’s statement, either, although those changes certainly affected COTA’s ability to confirm their spot for the Formula One United States Grand Prix.
According to the ESPN spokesperson, the full lineup for this year’s Austin Summer X Games will be announced this Thursday.