Simmons’ ‘Field of Dreams’
As a youth Phillip Simmons searched throughout Washington to find sandpits and patches of open area where he and his friends could ride their Honda dirt bikes over all sorts of terrain. Today, all Simmons has to do is go to work.
Simmons, who graduated Washington High in 1984, owns the 5 Points Motocross Park on 979 Jefferson Road in Pinetown, a course he originally built five years ago so that his children would not have to leave town to explore their love of racing and riding.
What started out as a way to bond with his family has now turned into a place where other families can share their passion for the sport together.
“I got three kids (William, 19, Adam, 17 and Kathryn, 12), and the two boys had got interested in riding and we were going to some tracks in Jacksonville every weekend to ride but we needed a place to practice,” Simmons said. “It started out as a practice track originally for my sons and their friends, so we took part of our farm and built it into a practice track on about seven acres.”
With the help of his children and his wife Melonie, who “tolerates” his love for riding, sooner or later Simmons began to build on his seven-acre practice facility until he had full-fledged motocross course.
“It just kind of snowballed. The first track we built was just a practice track with about two acres for parking,” Simmons said. “But it just got to where it was too small for everybody to go out there so I just took another 20 acres and turned it into a track and used another 10 acres for parking.”
Like Ray Kinsella found out in Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come, and while Shoeless Joe Jackson never came calling for Simmons, the Southern MX Racing circuit did.
“It’s just kind of grew. People started finding out about it and showing up,” Simmons said. “One day I was on my way to a rock concert in Virginia when they called and I just didn’t know what to think. It was kind of cool to think I had something that they would want to race on.”
With that, the transformation from kids’ course to pro course took place faster than you can say Moonlight Graham.
“As soon as we got back we went out there and started up on it,” Simmons said. “We built everything to make it better and they were happy with it. … It used to be just dirt but now there’s scoring towers, stadium lighting everywhere and bleachers and it’s still growing.”
The 5 Points MX Park holds approximately four races per year with it’s next one being a night race on June 9. Simmons says the races, which features classifications for male and female dirt bike and ATV riders of all ages, brings in about 100-150 riders per event.
The track includes two 60-foot jumps, a 100-foot turntable and a series of whoops jumps and has become a big hit with riders.
“Most everybody says it flows real nice, it doesn’t have bottlenecks,” Simmons said. “Once you get on the gas you can pretty much stay on it. It’s got a good flow is what they say. They say the jumps could be a little bigger but we built it for the intermediate to novice rider.”
When it came to building the motocross park Simmons, who works in the Washington Transportation Dept., was a bit of a novice himself, but relied on a lifetime of riding to steer him in the right direction.
“Basically it comes from just riding and knowing what people want,” Simmons said. “You want something that flows good and that is safe for a beginning rider but challenging to a hardcore rider … There’s a lot of trial and error. We are on our third design in three years. We just kind of keep tweaking it.”
After several adjustments and additions, the track now runs approximately one mile long.
“It’s a winding track,” Simmons said. “It kind of turns back into itself several times and straightens out.”
Though the course has grown tremendously since he began, Simmons said the evolution process is something that will be ongoing and that he is willing to take it as far as he can.
“I would like to see it continue to grow,” Simmons said. “We would like to get some more regional events like vintage racing and we just want to keep trying to build up this sport up in this area.”