$2.3 million Walton grant to help fund cyclocross racing in Fayetteville

A $2.3 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation will help fund a series of cyclocross races in Fayetteville, including the world championships in 2022.

The money was given to the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, which oversees Experience Fayetteville, the city’s tourism group.

The first event, called FayetteCross, is set for Oct. 5-6, 2019 at Centennial Park atop Millsap Mountain. Competitors of all ages and abilities are expected to participate, with $1,500 in prize money up for grabs in the Elite Women and Elite Men categories.

A second event will be held in 2020. Details are still being developed, but Experience Fayetteville Executive Director Molly Rawn said it will be a “high level, international event.”

The world cyclocross championships are set for Jan. 29-30, 2022. It will be just the second time the United States has ever hosted the event, which was first held in 1950 in Paris, France.

Up to 21,000 spectators and participants are expected for all three events in the series.

The commission on Monday voted to hire Parkven Productions to manage the events. The $320,000 contract will be paid in quarterly increments through April 2022.

Parkven is led by longtime cyclocross race director Brook Watts.

Watts was the owner of CrossVegas, which began in 2007 and grew into one of the biggest international cyclocross events during its 11-year run in Las Vegas, eventually becoming the first UCI World Cup ever held in the United States. The event moved to Reno in 2018, and was renamed RenoCross before being sold to a new owner.

Millsap Mountain was the site of a two-day cyclocross event in 2018 called OzCross. A temporary course was constructed atop the mountain for the race series.

The area should look much different by the time the world championships arrive.

Now called Centennial Park, the mountaintop is the site of a planned 228-acre cycling park that features state-of-the-art cyclocross facilities, as well as mountain bike and trail running infrastructure.

The announcement that Fayetteville would host the 2022 world cyclocross championships was made in Bogense, Denmark at the site of the 2019 event. Dübendorf, Switzerland will host the 2020 worlds, followed by Ostend, Belgium in 2021.

Brannon Pack, who was recently hired as the cycling coordinator for Experience Fayetteville, said the world championships will be the largest cycling event to happen on U.S. soil since the worlds were hosted in Louisville, Kentucky nearly a decade before.

“Nothing cycling-specific of this size has hit the states, of this caliber, in any kind of cycling, since 2011 [sic],” said Pack.

Note: Cyclocross worlds were held in Louisville in 2013. The 2011 event was held in Sankt Wendel, Germany.