Shredding it up in Motown
Two 20-somethings carry the hope of a metropolis on their backs in an effort to bring the X Games to Detroit.
Published: June 26, 2013
“Our inspiration was to show what is and what could be in Detroit,” Gruse says. “Let’s get these iconic Detroit spots and show a few other spots unknown. Clients come to us for the look and the unique way we conceptualize shots that are fitting with the X Games.”
The Work, founded in 2010, is made up of five partners, including Gruse, 30, Ed Knight, 27, Jerome Wald, 26 and brothers Shane Ford, 25 and Jesse Ford, 29. Their filming experience includes everything on Chevy’s website, work for Ford Motor Co., the new Corvette Stingray and the Silverado.
The video and the partnership between Action Sports Detroit and the Work started without money — all on trust with friends passionate about the project; it soon steamrolled. Ford Racing said it could get the men a rally car and driver if the guys promised they could get the streets closed. With just three weeks notice, Koehler’s response: “One hundred percent. We’ll get the streets closed.” The tactical operations unit of the city worked with the partners in an expedited timeline — mission accomplished.
From there, the Work said if you can get a rally car, we need a helicopter. Both the rally car and helicopter were monumental for the video. The helicopter, which appears in the video, allowed tracking and great shots of the city, including four rally car locations: the Cobo Hall roof parking structure, Campus Martius, Belle Isle and the train station. According to Koehler, “The Work got our vision with their vision.”
Paxahau, the event production management group, also became involved five months ago. Koehler says Paxahau was “hugely helpful when we were just two kids going door to door.”
According to Sam Fotias, operations manager at Paxahau, Krease and Koehler “had the idea and feedback from ESPN. They were looking for help on organizing and making this a reality … how to execute, how to judge expenses.”
If Detroit is awarded the 2014-2016 summer X Games from ESPN, Paxahau would, says Fotias, be the operations arm for the outdoors component of the games.
The relationship of Detroit’s X Games bid to the resurgence of a growing youth culture in the city can’t be overstated. Chicago native Koehler explains: “The reason I moved here is the incredible movement of young people taking action in the city. They are doing it without permission. Detroit is an affordable place to live and has the space to create things. Here everyone does it in a sense for Detroit. There is a very palpable sense of place here. Young people want to be part of that.”
Fotias of Paxahau weighs in: “There is a very strong momentum of the younger generation in the city, working and playing down here. There is a unique civic pride, very different than a lot of cities. This type of event really connects with what is going on here now.”
Action Sports’ X Games Detroit event plan is taking shape. They are thinking the skateboarding and BMX biking events would take place along the riverfront, including a possible superpark at Hart Plaza with street competitions there along with a half-pipe. Sponsorship action is being considered for Campus Martius. The rally car competition would likely be on Belle Isle, utilizing the home of the Grand Prix. Ford Field could house most of the motocross events, plus the big air ramp for skateboarding and BMX.
Kevin Krease is definitely jazzed after going overseas and seeing X Games Barcelona firsthand: “It was a fantastic trip. We spent time with ESPN learning the layout and infrastructure … from where you put the broadcasting vans to how large are the venues. We spent time learning how you build out the rally car race, down to the dirt mixture for the course.”
Krease sees Detroit as an international city, including its connection to Canada and Windsor. This international aspect is “… a wildly underplayed strength we have here. ESPN is viewing this as their North American event,” he explains. “Our goal in marketing it is to bring in Canadians and Americans alike.” Koehler echoes his partner’s sentiments when he calls Detroit “a global city where everyone has a vested interest in seeing this city come back.”
On the evening of Tuesday, May 28, ESPN came to town to examine Detroit’s X Games bid where, at Campus Martius, Action Sports with its #XG2D movement, pulled out all the stops. The party featured DJ sets by Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys and Ryan Richards, plus a live graffiti contest with Detroit artists, and an open skate and BMX.
After an all-day rain, the skies cleared for the 8 p.m. start time. The turnout was ample as the DJ set began; spirits were high as people danced to a remix of hometown legend Aretha Franklin’s Respect.
Now it is just a waiting game. X Games producers have stated that the bid city will be announced sometime at the end of June. As this week’s Metro Times goes to press, this writer and the city he lives in are on pins and needles.
Christopher Gruse of the Work sums it up when he says, “Detroit exemplifies what X Games is. From skaters to BMX riders to bands … it is an oyster here. Detroit is the perfect place for this.”
Carl Bookstein is a freelance writer from Detroit. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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