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High time at the Yards

The Baltimore Sun

The Panasonic Open, the first leg of the 2007 AST Dew Tour, finished its four-day run at the Camden Yards sports complex yesterday, and tour officials were uncertain whether they would return in 2008.

The event, which featured a variety of competitions with professional athletes performing on skateboards, bikes and motorcycles, made its first appearance in Baltimore, but a long-term agreement between the tour and the Maryland Stadium Authority has not been reached.

Wade Martin, president and general manager of the tour, said negotiations are continuing.

"We're in a one-year agreement, but our goal is to stay here for multiple years," Martin said. "We've still got some logistical issues to work out."

If the event doesn't return to Baltimore next year, it certainly won't be because of a lack of support, as 54,907 fans - the second-largest turnout in the 2-year-old Dew Tour's history - came out to cheer the action sports stars. Martin said he was convinced by what he had seen over the past four days that coming to Baltimore was the right decision.

"It's really exceeded our expectations," Martin said. "We think it's the right market with the right, passionate fan base, and we believe it's a community that would embrace the event. We've been very happy with Baltimore."

That happiness was mostly because of the turnout over the weekend. Though Thursday was marked by weather delays and schedule changes, the rest of the weekend was a different story. The weather was good, crowds picked up, and fans outnumbered the seating capacity at each venue.

One of those fans, Ed Herscher, brought his two boys to yesterday's motocross dirt and BMX park finals and came away impressed.

"It was great," said Herscher, 30, who purchased VIP passes for the event and pledged to return next year if the tour comes back. "Everybody was out here getting wild, doing great tricks, I loved it all."

Rob Benney agreed. The 16-year-old attended the event Saturday and yesterday and said he got more than his money's worth. "It was one of the best things I've ever seen," Benney said.

The event attracted some of the top names in action sports, such as skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, the two-time defending Dew Cup champion. The 17-year-old easily won the skateboard park competition Friday with a score of 90.25, though he was overshadowed by local qualifier and fan favorite Mathieu Therres.

Therres, a 21-year-old Dundalk resident, came through open qualifying to make the finals and finished fifth.

Shaun White, the Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder, continued his transition to skateboarding by winning the vertical event, defeating an injured Bucky Lasek in the process. Lasek, a Dundalk native performing with a bad knee, finished a disappointing fourth in front of his hometown crowd.

Tour rookie Mike Spinner nearly took home the BMX park title, but ending up losing to Daniel Dhers of Venezuela. Other winners included Jamie Bestwick (BMX vertical), Ryan Nyquist (BMX dirt) and Nate Adams (freestyle motocross).

Fans cheered the likes of Adams and fellow motocross rider Mike Mason all weekend, and the athletes certainly noticed.

"Fan turnout was awesome," said Mason, who finished third. "The last two years, our first stop has been at Louisville, and we haven't had much of a turnout. To come here and see all these people from Baltimore come out and support us and cheer us on, that's all we can ask for."

Not all the Dew Tour news was positive. Freestyle motocross runner-up Blake Williams crashed near the end of his final run. He was carried off the track with a possible knee injury and did not attend the trophy presentation.


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