X Games won’t return to Austin next year

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — This will be the last year for the X Games in Austin. The decision to move the summer games in 2017 means they are leaving a four-year contract one year early.

“We’ve been honored to call Austin home of the X Games since 2014 and are proud to have run world-class competitions for athletes, hosted amazing musicians for our fans and sponsors together with the Circuit of The Americas,” said Tim Reed, vice president, X Games in a press release. “We thank COTA, the City of Austin and State of Texas for their support, and look forward to an amazing final X Games Austin event this June.”

A spokesperson from ESPN and X Games says although the agreement was through 2017, CoTA and ESPN mutually decided this would be the event’s last year. The cancellation has nothing to do with the Texas Major Events Trust Fund, according to ESPN. The event’s spokesperson says the primary reason they’re leaving is because the schedule at COTA dictated they hold the event in June rather than their traditional late July/early August time frame (along with the Texas heat). ESPN says the later time frame is more conducive.

COTA CEO Bobby Epstein sent a statement to KXAN on Tuesday echoing the sentiment of ESPN:

“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.”

The news came as a disappointment to Austin’s own Chase Hawk who won the BMX freestyle competition in 2014 in front of his hometown fans.

“Just from the last two years, I thought it was something that would stay,” said Hawk who admits he did hear some complaints about the heat. “Anybody who has been to the COTA track knows there is not a lick of shade.”

Fan attendance was not an issue according to ESPN. Even though attendance dropped by more than 20,000 fans from 2014 to 2015, it was still higher than the X Games average over the previous 11 years when hosted in Los Angeles.

Tickets for 2016 X Games go on sale March 24. The event will be June 2 through 5.

X Games organizers say they are taking requests for new locations in 2017.

There was some uncertainty Formula One would also not be returning to Austin after the Circuit of the Americas lost $6 million in state funding. The loss of money was from a disappointing 2015 event due to the heavy rains and low attendance. After funds were confirmed, COTA announced plans for the race to encourage fans to buy tickets.

COTA is now promising money back guarantees if there is severe weather again. Under their new insurance policy, COTA will refund fans 105 percent of their money if it rains more than two inches in the 24 hours before the race. There will also be new paved parking lots instead of the muddy nightmare last year. Additionally, they have book a big headliner for the event, Taylor Swift.

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