By AMY FORLITI, Associated Press Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Skateboarders and BMX bikers who have traditionally descended on Providence for the Gravity Games will take their aerials and ollies elsewhere this summer.
Gravity Games officials announced Thursday they will be moving the 2002 games to Cleveland, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame serving as the center of activity.
The games generated about $80 million in tourism dollars for Rhode Island from the 900,000 spectators, athletes and corporate sponsors who flocked to the events over three years.
"It's certainly disappointing to the entire state," said John Mousseau, executive director of the Rhode Island Sports Council, who said the state garnered positive publicity as the games were broadcast worldwide.
"When you're talking about network television, and 10½ hours of that in seven weekends of prime time, that's advertising exposure that we could not afford to purchase," he said.
The Gravity Games started in 1999 in Providence, under a three-year contract with the city.
That contract expired in 2001, the same year plans were approved for a new office and retail complex at Waterplace Park -- the site of the Gravity Games' skateboarding, BMX biking, inline skating and freestyle motocross competitions.
Rhode Island officials had hoped to keep the Gravity Games in Providence, and they looked at other sites within the state, including Roger Williams Park and other undeveloped areas.
Wade Martin, executive director of the Gravity Games, said the office development was only a small factor in the decision to try out a new city.
"It actually was a very hard decision for the Gravity Games and all the partners involved," Martin told The Associated Press. "Really what it came down to was a feeling among everyone involved in the Gravity Games that we need to freshen up the event and we need to move it more often from venue to venue.
"We are very hopeful that at some point we can come back to Providence," he said.
Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. also hopes the games will return to the Renaissance City. He said he understood the decision to change venues.
"They were a great event for the city," Cianci said. "But you know, variety is the spice of life."
The nine-day event also includes competitions in downhill skateboarding, street luging and wakeboarding. This year's games will be held from July 27 through Aug. 4.(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)