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Friday, February 10, 2012
The Ricardo Laguna Dirt Park is a reality

Ricardo Laguna cranks a turndown over the dirt park that bears his name in La Paz, Mexico.

Recently, dirt jumper and occasional Chippendales dancer Ricardo Laguna returned to his hometown of La Paz in Mexico to construct a dirt park known as the Ricardo Laguna Dirt Park. The park, which features advanced sets as well as rhythm sections for aspiring dirt riders, landed Laguna with a key to the city and praise from the local government. Now in operation, we decided to catch up with Ricardo to learn more about the dirt park that now bears his name.

ESPN: So what's it like having your own dirt park named after you?
Laguna: It's such a surreal experience having a dirt park named after me! Through my whole BMX career, I never would have expected this to happen, and it's such a huge honor. The weirdest part was saying "Hey, do you want to go ride the Ricardo Laguna Dirt Park later?"

Was there a grand opening?
Totally, and they went all out! My friends Dalton Campbell and Jake Kinney came out to help build the park and be part of the demo. There was live music, a government ceremony, appearances by spokes models and local TV celebrities Santos Soto and Isamar Ashe. Tons of people came out to have a good time and we rode all day!

It's pretty rare to see a public set of dirt jumps anywhere, even at a skatepark. Are the jumps open to anyone? And are there certain rules you need to follow to ride them?
The dirt park is at a university in La Paz, which also has a regular skatepark for kids who are just getting started. The Ricardo Laguna Dirt Park is more for advanced riders. Anyone can go ride there as long as they follow the rules, which are to wear a helmet and safety equipment, keep everything clean, don't bring in drugs or alcohol and follow the normal hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

La Paz locals gather at the grand opening of the Ricardo Laguna Dirt Park.

You mentioned you received a key to the city of La Paz, what does that mean?
I can get into anyone's house anytime I want, just kidding! Receiving a key to the city from the government of La Paz is their way of saying thanks for giving back and helping out the community. The key represents a connection between all the people of La Paz working to improve the city together.

What's BMX like in Mexico, compared to here in the states? Is BMX popular in La Paz?
It's a different world. The biggest difference is that in Mexico they don't have access to bikes and bike parts like we have in the states. So if they need a replacement part they might have to special order it and wait weeks or months for it to arrive. And you might not believe me, but a lot of the kids just share bikes. I went down there with two bags full of pads, spare parts and clothes, and I came back with nothing. In La Paz, the kids get to ride the Malecon and street riding is actually encouraged, unlike in the states where street riding is considered a crime. Now that they have the dirt park, I can only see dirt riding starting to boom!

You might not believe me, but a lot of the kids just share bikes.


Was it difficult to decide what size to build the jumps, with younger kids riding them? Who maintains them?
Of course it was a hard decision since I like everything bigger and faster! Since a lot of the kids are just starting out with riding dirt, I kept the jumps medium sized, but I also included a rhythm section with a roller and a berm so they can get comfortable with the fundamentals of trail riding. For maintenance, my friend Sam Nava is in charge and he's got a team of people keeping everything in order. I can't thank him enough for helping to make this possible!

What was the highlight of your trip going back to your hometown of La Paz, Mexico?
It's impossible for me to pick one highlight because the whole trip was so amazing! First off, when we landed at the airport, there were people waiting and welcoming us like family. It was great seeing how the city has evolved since the last time I was there, plus catching up with family and friends who remember me from when I was younger. Everyone is so friendly there -- it's no wonder La Paz is considered one of the safest cities in North America. I also loved getting to swim with the sea lions and see dolphins and a ton of fish.

Do you have any future plans for the park? Will you be hosting any contests there? What's next?
Ultimately I would love to host a contest there, but first I want the kids to get used to dirt riding and practice. Right now it's too soon to schedule anything, but there's definitely ideas like hosting a clinic for the younger kids, throwing an anniversary party, and hosting a contest would be amazing. Only time will tell!