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Charlotte is looking to host ESPN’s X Games – again

In this file photo, Marcus Smith, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, left, and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis talk prior to Davis taking laps around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. In 2013, Smith an effort to land the summer X Games at the speedway, but Austin, Texas, won the bid.
In this file photo, Marcus Smith, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, left, and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis talk prior to Davis taking laps around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. In 2013, Smith an effort to land the summer X Games at the speedway, but Austin, Texas, won the bid. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Motor Speedway said Tuesday that it has had “preliminary discussions” with ESPN about hosting the cable network’s summer X games, which are leaving Austin, Texas, a year earlier than expected.

The speedway’s bid to host the summer X Games fell short in 2013 after ESPN announced Austin would host for the next four years. But the network said the agreement with its current partner, Circuit of The Americas in Austin, will now conclude after the 2016 games this June.

ESPN said Tuesday it’s seeking bids from cities and entities interested in hosting the extreme-sports competition in both 2017 and 2018.

“We have had some preliminary discussions with ESPN about possibilities for the future and to be honest, we’ve stayed in touch with them since the bid process in 2013,” said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Cooper cited Charlotte’s population and development booms, as well as the fact that it has landed other big sporting events like the NBA All-Star Game next year, as reasons the city has a good chance to land the games this time around.

The speedway is working with area boosters to solidify a bid to host, he added, though he declined to provide names. “We’re happy there’s interest, and we’re ready to put our best foot forward,” Cooper said.

An ESPN spokesman confirmed that the network is in preliminary discussions with Charlotte Motor Speedway and “looks forward to continuing the process.”

Other communities with interest in the games include Portland, Seattle Minneapolis, Ft. Lauderdale, Kansas City and Nassau County, N.Y., the spokesman said. Others cities did not want to be identified.

ESPN decided to end its agreement with Austin one year early, the spokesman said, because it’s looking to return the games to a window in late July or early August, when there is less programming competition from other sports.

The Summer X Games, featuring sports such as skateboarding and motorcross, had been held since 1995, primarily in southern California. When ESPN could not come to terms on a new contract with Los Angeles following this summer’s event, the network began searching for a new host city.

After eight months of courting, the network chose Austin over Charlotte, Detroit and Chicago. Since its inception, the X Games summer events have been hosted in nine different cities in 20 years, ESPN said.

Last year, the X Games had an economic impact of $102.3 million in Austin, according to an analysis cited by ESPN.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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