Tour to return

The Baltimore Sun

For a second straight summer, trucks will roll into downtown Baltimore and dump tons of dirt between Oriole Park and M &T; Bank Stadium. Youths marked by droopy haircuts and droopier pants will congregate from miles around. Motorcycles will soar into the view of drivers passing on Interstate 395.

The Action Sports Tour Dew Tour will be back in town on the third weekend in June with a raft of celebrity skateboarders and BMX bike riders in tow. The Panasonic Open (June 19-22) will kick off the five-stop action sports tour.

Tour president Wade Martin said he never questioned whether he wanted to return to Baltimore after last summer's event.

"We really didn't know what to expect, because that was our first event on the East Coast," Martin said. "But we were overwhelmed by the response. It wasn't just the numbers, which were very good. The fans were incredibly energetic and savvy."

Last year's Panasonic Open drew 54,907 fans over four days. This year, Martin hopes to pull more spectators from other East Coast cities such as Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

Officials at the Maryland Stadium Authority said the event is a perfect example of how they hope to use the stadium complex when the Ravens and Orioles aren't in town.

"It's an event that brings an economic benefit to the city and state, and it's a very family-oriented event," interim director David Raith said.

Each Dew event features two skateboarding competitions, three BMX bike competitions and a freestyle motocross event. The tour awards $2.5 million in purse money, making it the kind of reliable, professional circuit that action sports athletes could not count on until recent years.

The event will be broadcast on NBC, which created the Dew Tour, and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Top stars could include Baltimore native Bucky Lasek (who won the tour's vertical skating titles in 2005 and 2006), Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White and Ryan Sheckler, an 18-year-old skateboarder whose fame has increased significantly in recent months with the success of his MTV reality show Life of Ryan.

White won last year's vert skateboarding competition in Baltimore, and Sheckler won the park skateboarding contest. Both went on to win season-long titles in those events.

Last year's tour stop was shadowed by the frightening crash of BMX dirt rider Stephen Murray, who spent three weeks at Maryland Shock Trauma. Murray has not regained full movement of all limbs and is still rehabilitating in Baltimore at the Kennedy Krieger Institute's spinal cord injury center, according to a recent Web update by his father, Jeff.

The sporting portion of the event won't change from last year, but Martin said the surrounding exhibitions and merchandise tents will feature "new bells and whistles."

Tour organizers had never staged an event entirely outdoors before last year, so the setup was new. Martin said it went smoothly and that little will change.

"The only problem we faced was that we didn't have enough stands for all the people at times, but we'll fix that," he said.

Crews will also have to set up the massive dirt courses during an Orioles homestand, but Raith said the club and tour have agreed on how that process will work.

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