ESPN’s Alternative Sports Festival Returns To Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Look! Up in the sky. It’s a ... surfer?
That’s right. The folks who put surfboards in the stratosphere and luges on asphalt are back.
The X Games, the alternative Olympics created and financed by cable sports network ESPN, return to Rhode Island for a second year starting Monday.
``While it’s the second year, we’ve approached it with the same vim and vigor and eagerness,″ X Games executive director Jack Weinert said. ``We’re a little smarter this year.″
Again, street lugers will speed down the streets of Providence’s historic College Hill on 8-foot aluminum rail sleds and skysurfers will perform free-fall routines in the air above Middletown’s Second Beach. bungee jumpers will bounce from a 155-foot tower above Providence’s Waterplace Park. And sport climbers will scale a climbing wall erected at the Newport Yachting Center.
The games are expected to attract 400 male and female competitors in nine sports.
ESPN will spend more than $10 million on the games, Weinert said. He declined to discuss whether the network would make a profit, but said corporate sponsorships and all X Games advertising slots were sold out on ESPN and sister stations ESPN2 and ESPN International.
Lesa Ukman, editor of the Chicago-based IEG Sponsorship Report, a sports marketing newsletter, estimated the network would take in $12 million from sponsorships and advertising sales and up to $2 million from sales of X Games merchandise and rights.
After proving last year that there was an audience for an alternative sports festival, ESPN’s focus this year is on improving the games’ quality as a spectator event, Weinert said.
He acknowledged spectators were not served as well as television viewers during the inaugural games.
``We on (the organizing) end didn’t coordinate as well as we could have with the television guys,″ Weinert said.
Organizers have trimmed the games from last year. Gone are the water-sport events of windsurfing and kite-skiing, dropped after a lack of wind left 1995 competitors going nowhere.
Mountain biking events, which were staged last year at Vermont’s Mount Snow, also have been jettisoned.
New to the games is wakeboarding, in which participants attached by rope to a motorboat do a series of tricks and jumps while riding a board.
Back again are an extreme adventure race and competitions in dirt-bike riding, in-line skating, skateboarding, sport climbing, skysurfing, street luge, bungee jumping and barefoot water ski jumping.
The adventure race, consisting of a multi-stage trek from upstate New York to Rhode Island, will involve kayaking, whitewater rafting, swimming, climbing, orienteering and bicycling.