UPDATED: New management hired for cyclocross world championships in Fayetteville

Riders pedal through a muddy turn at the October 2019 FayetteCross event at Centennial Park in Fayetteville. / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The 2022 cyclocross world championships are officially under new management.

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday voted unanimously to approve a $231,000 contract with Medalist Sports to lead the event, set for Jan. 29-30, 2022.

The commission governs Experience Fayetteville – the city’s tourism bureau – which has a separate contract with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) organization to host the world championships in Fayetteville. The bureau previously had a management contract with Parkven Productions, but differences between the two groups led to a recent split.

At the time, Parkven’s Brook Watts took to Twitter saying he’d resigned from managing the event with remarks that appeared to be in response to recent anti-trans laws passed in Arkansas.

“The situation in Arkansas remains problematic and unfortunately, I don’t see any satisfactory resolution,” Watts said in his resignation statement.

Watts had previously tweeted a denouncement of the state Legislature’s banning of transgender student athletes from joining female sports teams.

A massive, 38-stair obstacle is one of the major features of a world-class cyclocross racecourse being built atop Millsap Mountain ahead of the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships at Centennial Park in Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The denouncement was one of several made from people with ties to the world championships, including Walmart heir Tom Walton, who has been a key figure in promoting cycling in Arkansas and who helped secure the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships.

Molly Rawn, CEO of Experience Fayetteville, also weighed in.

“In an already challenging year for tourism, this will only continue to negatively impact our industry, the state’s second largest economy,” said Rawn. “More importantly, these laws will further marginalize the transgender community.”

Rawn said operational differences between the bureau and Parkven had been brewing before the legislature’s actions, and the issue came to a head in March when Rawn asked Parkven for a mutual separation from their contract.

More features on the cyclocross racecourse at Centennial Park in Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

“I believe this is a good point of transition, from the current relationship to an improved situation, and I’d like you to consider the prospects of a mutual termination of the parties’ contract and orderly wind-down now, and in advance of the scheduled expiration in April 2022,” Rawn wrote in a March 31 email to Watts and his business partner Kristin Diamond. “We can discuss the reasons for my request, although I doubt they will be a surprise (as we have communicated candidly these past 19 months).”

Rawn went on to ask for the partners’ thoughts on ending the contract in a “cooperative spirit” that would ensure the world championships could continue in a successful manner.

Rawn said the pair were not receptive to the idea, so the agreement was dissolved. Parkven then received the remainder of the $320,000 contract amount that had previously been paid on a quarterly schedule since the company was first hired in August 2019.

All of the money for the event comes from a $2.3 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation that Experience Fayetteville received to fund a series of events, including the world championships.

Medalist will oversee both the world championships and this year’s FayetteCross World Cup races, set for Oct. 13 at Centennial Park.

The company has a history of managing major professional cycling events in the United States, including the Tour of California, Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri. The company was tapped to lead next year’s return of the Tour of Utah, and will oversee the 2021 USA Pro Road National Championships in Knoxville next month.