While in Orlando for the Supercross a few weeks ago, we in to check out the Orlando Watersports Complex, or as it’s more commonly known, the OWC. Originally started as a cable park for water skiers and wakeboarders (think overhead tow ropes with no boats), they’ve also added one of the coolest mini-moto tracks we’ve ever seen. While most people wouldn’t (or couldn’t) jump onto a real full-size Supercross track, the OWC track (which as you’ll see later) is actually patterned after a Supercross track, complete with whoops sections, a variety of jumps, and an over/under tunnel; and despite its Supercross heritage, it looked like it would be safe and insanely fun to ride.
While we were there, they were running the Fox-sponsored Sunshine Classic, complete with free BBQ dinner, and tons of prizes. A total of six classes limited to 20 riders each ensured that the program didn’t run endlessly into the night.
Afterward, we talked to the director of the mini-moto portion of OWC, Jeff Hoover, who had been working with his crew to ensure everyone was having a good time.
How about an overall view of what the entire OWC complex is about.
OWC was built seven years ago by Rene Hofman and family. They are from Germany and he is a retired world-class water skier. He used to train here in the USA and it was always his dream to come back and live here and build a cable park. These systems are very popular in Europe and were designed there. The Park has been expanding over the last years with the paintball course and now the mini track. The overall objective is for a first class Extreme Sports Park. There are also talks now for an indoor shifter cart track next. Last year the property that the track and paint ball course is on came available for purchase and Rene’s family bought it. That has allowed for the expansion, along with the need for more parking at the facility.
How did a mini-moto track fit into the picture there?
With the purchase of the additional property Rene was faced with what to do with it. My two sons are avid racers of MX and kept mentioning a pit bike track. With the growth and popularity of the sport and a little prodding we took the chance. I have a great friendship with Todd Hicks at Fox Racing and along with him sponsoring a wakeboard team, he has spent a lot of time at OWC over the years. I got him involved and then we started planning. I also know Mark Barnett personally so it was natural to bring him in for the construction phase. After several meetings with all of us the plans came together. With my connection to the environmental industry here and knowing a lot of people, I searched out for the best clay material around here to use for construction. With a lot of persuasion we got a GREAT deal on the clay!
What’s your day job?
I handle all the Environmental Affairs for Walt Disney World. Luckily when my racing career was over I went back to school and got an education! I’ve been around this Industry for a long time. It’s my passion and love, along with my kids’ interest.
How did you get involved with the OWC track?
I’ve known Rene and his family since they started construction on OWC. Before I started working for Disney, I worked for the EPA in this area. Rene had a lot of environmental concerns when they started and I got involved trying to help. Having two kids also interested in water sports helped. We became great friends throughout his endeavors there. My mother’s side of the family is also German so that made the connection even better. My involvement with the track came through the idea from my boys for the pit bike track and our association with the MX Industry that could make it happen.
Describe the track there…how big an area does it take for a cool track like this?
The track is 250′ by 350′. Approximately 3000 yards of clay, 200 haybales, a land/sea container for the over/under jump and a few miles of banners.
How’d you come up with the design?
The design is actually a scaled-down version of the Indianapolis SX from previous years, Barnett had the old plans from his Dirt Wurx days with Winkler.
Who built the track?
Mark Barnett and Glenn Bates. Jason Baker lives nearby and helps out with the grooming when needed. He’s a ex pro rider that now builds tracks also. He has worked with Barnett over the years and lives close by.
What’s the scene like in the area? How many riders do you draw on a regular basis?
An average weekend we will see anywhere from 40 to 50 riders on a Saturday or Sunday. We have had only three major race events that have drawn over 100 racers each time. The last event we had just prior to the March event we had 150 riders sign up. It’s definitely growing. During the summer months it tends to slow down with the heat and rain.
Is it still growing out there?
Yes, more and more kids are showing up due to the location and the popularity. Next to the big track we have the beginner track that allows parents to go out onto the track with their kids. It’s great for learning!
I heard a vicious rumor that you’re going to try and cover the whole track with a roof. Can you elaborate on that?
For sure! The plans are done, a contractor has been decided and the cost is approved—$700,000.00 to build the roof. Last summer on an average we were closed two out of the three days we are open due to rain. With the roof we will be open rain or shine. Also the track will be covered with shade making the summer a lot more bearable. Lights will go up in the structure along with the irrigation system. KICKER will be providing a sound system also to be placed up in the roof.
Okay, looking to the future… there’s the MiniMoto SX on the west coast…how long before there’s a MiniMoto SX eastern version? Or better yet, a series?
Hopefully you have met Eric Peronnard of mini-moto fame in Vegas. He happens to live about one hour away. He has been a longtime friend and supporter for OWC and the track. He has some awesome plans for the future, but those are a secret now.
What else are we missing?
The track also offers a riding school on Sundays and also private lessons. My sons do the schools and they have been very successful.
Once the roof is finished the next plan is for a retail shop to be built. There we will offer parts and accessories, and rental bikes. We have a huge number of tourists that attend OWC for the water skiing and they are constantly asking to ride once they see the track. The rental business will be big. Rene’s family being from Europe, the skiing Industry there send so many people over here to train and ride while the weather back there is bad. Vacationing tourists, along with our general tourist that frequent the Park are very interested in renting bikes to ride. This will open an entire new mark, renting pit bikes.
Also, without the help of Todd Hicks and Fox Racing, this project might not have been so successful. Todd’s dedication to the sport has been so much help! Each year now he has flow back from Lake Whitney Nationals that are right before bike week here to be part of our event. Then he flys out to go back the next day.
In the future we are looking at the Industry to become involved with OWC, sponsorship packages are available, this will allow us to grow even bigger and better! There’s also a web page for all the info: minimoto-x.com.
For more photos from OWC, check out the link in the right column.