Los Angeles

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NHL: Kings late-season heroics second to none

The Los Angeles Kings have undoubtedly been one of the best teams of the decade thus far. Regular season dominance, however, has not exactly been their strong suit in achieving that title.

Going back to late December through early February, the Kings suffered through a stretch of 15 games where they earned only three wins. At that point, chances of making the playoffs and having a shot to defend their Stanley Cup Championship were dim.

Two months and a miraculous eight-game win streak later, LA is poised to once again sneak into the postseason.

The Kings (39-25-14) currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division, trailing Calgary by 1 point. Los Angeles is tied with the Winnipeg Jets with 90 points, and the Kings hold the tiebreaker for the second and final Western Conference Wild Card spot. 

With one game in hand on the Flames, and having played the same number of games as the Jets, the Kings control their own destiny.  But the playoff bubble is not unfamiliar territory for Los Angeles, which has won two of the last three Stanley Cup Championships.

When the Kings won the Cup in 2011-12, they backed their way into the playoffs as an eighth seed. Similarly, just last year the Kings won the Stanley Cup as the last team to secure a divisional bid with a third-place finish in the Pacific Division.

The best way to describe how the Kings manage to thrive in pressure filled situations might simply be level of confidence. Despite already being in position to secure a wild card berth, head coach Darryl Sutter displayed firm trust that his team will earn an automatic divisional bid.

“Everybody’s trying to make the playoffs,” Sutter said when asked about playing other desperate teams down the final stretch of the season. “You’ve got to get into that division part of it. That’s the structure of the playoffs.”

Sutter continued, “[We’re] not going to get a wild-card spot. The wild-card’s out of the picture.”   

After suffering back-to-back 4-1 losses to Minnesota and Chicago, the Kings responded to their coach’s lofty goal and got back on the winning track with a dominating 8-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at home Thursday night.

Their return to the win column after the two crushing blows is an immense victory for both the team’s morale and their playoff hopes. And anybody that has seen the Kings play in the playoffs over the last three years knows that once they get in, they are difficult to beat.

"We have a lot of guys in here that thrive under pressure situations," said defenseman Drew Doughty after the win over Edmonton. "We have a lot of heart, and we believe in every single player in this room to get the job done.”

Confidence and team chemistry are two key components to a team’s postseason success, and the Kings seem to have mastered the art of both.

“We still have a chance, so that’s what I think guys in this room have been really good at, is realizing that the opportunity is there,” Kings Captain Dustin Brown said.

The Kings have made a name for themselves by making the most of their opportunities. With only four games remaining in the season and every one of them a potential must win, Los Angeles must once again prove there is nobody in today’s game that is better when the game, and the entire season, is on the line. 

Earl Sweatshirt, the previously missing member of Odd Future, a Los Angeles-based hip-hop collective, released his newest album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt, on March 23.

I Don’t Like Shit continues Earl’s no-nonsense approach to music defined in his debut studio album, Doris, but to a further extreme. Compared to his previous works, the cold and depressing feeling of I Don’t Like Shit is a let down. 

With his immense skill, many listeners hoped Earl’s follow-up to Doris would have more energy, passion and aggression and bring diversity and energy to his music. Instead, Earl goes deeper into the darkness with I Don’t Like Shit. The album has none of the necessary compromises Doris has with its occasionally up-beat songs and sometimes hopeful themes. On this record, Earl seeks to please no one; the songs are depressing and extremely antisocial.

The goal of the album appears to be one overarching feeling of claustrophobia. The producers did a great job hitting their mark to create a very specific tone, but the flat and lonely experience leaves more to be desired.

The slow-motion jazz chords and the beats may be simple, but the background tracks have far-too-powerful emotional weight to it. The album is a full-bore, swift knockout of intense sorrow. Samples of children’s screams on “AM // Radio” bring a dark humor into the mix, and the record’s leading single, “Grief,” successfully executes a full takeover of the listener’s emotions.

I Don’t Like Shit is plagued by its up-and-down style. On “AM // Radio,” Wiki, member of the rap group Ratking, spits a few bars and fizzles out, but Earl comes in strong and attacks the track on the second half. This progression represents the record as a whole: About half of the verses seem lethargic, but, in the other half, Earl goes into full-on attack mode. The album is a constant cycle of anticipation and disappointment. Maybe it was a choice he consciously made, but that decision makes for a confusing listen.

At some points, an inattentive listener might think that Earl put no effort into his music. Upon closer inspection, themes of trust are abundant, but the lack of variety gives a misleading impression, making this album anything but a casual listen.

One of the finer aspects of the album is Earl’s lyrical abilities. In most tracks, such as “Off Top” and “Huey,” his words fit together perfectly as a jigsaw puzzle would. On the first track, “Huey,” Earl kicks off with “Foot and hand on the gates / We was jumpin’ em, fuck, I’m like quicksand in my ways / Was always stuck in ‘em, stuck it in until an ambulance came.”

If listening to details of Earl’s depression doesn’t sound like a worthy investment of your time, this album isn’t for you. It will feel tedious and drawn out despite its short length.

I admire how Earl ignored commercial success for a more artistic angle, but an album only works if that style proves to be genius. I Don’t Like Shit trips up too often to be considered anything more than an intriguing prospect and forgettable listen.

Album: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt

Artist: Earl Sweatshirt

Tracks: 10

Rating: 5/10

MLS Touchline- Week One

Friday marks the start of the 20th season for Major League Soccer.

Or at least it should.

Currently, there is still no CBA, Collective Bargaining Agreement, between MLS and the players, which, if unresolved by Friday, could result in a player’s strike and games not being played.

But we’re going to  go on the assumption that the games will be played as scheduled this weekend.

This season should be an exciting and intriguing year for MLS as soccer is at an all-time high in the U.S. after a tremendous showing in television ratings for the World Cup last year and heightened popularity of the English Premiere League.

Attendance last year for MLS was up across the league, if you take away the stats from now-defunct Chivas U.S.A. The average attendance for the league was just over 19,000, which is roughly near capacity for most of the teams’ stadiums (CenturyLink Field obviously notwithstanding).

There are a number of key storylines going into this year that should keep things intriguing from March to Decemeber. (We’re going to hold off on the CBA issue here.)

First, there are the two new teams coming into this season: New York City F.C., a joint venture between Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and Orlando City F.C. The intrigue here is both on and off the pitch. Both teams ought to do well with their solid rosters and the fact that they’re both in the weaker Eastern Conference. And then there’s the attendance watch for both teams in their first years. Orlando has already announced that their first match on Sunday, coincidently enough against New York City, at the Citrus Bowl is sold out. Whether that keeps up and whether New York City can put up good numbers at Yankee Stadium will be something to keep an eye on.

Then there’s the Western Conference that, much like it’s NBA counterpart, is absolutely stacked with competitors. Last year the conference produced about six or seven teams that would have made the postseason had they been in the Eastern Conference. That goes off both points and the fact they would have had an easier schedule. This year it only gets stronger with the addition of Houston and Sporting Kansas City, though MLS has added an extra playoff slot for each conference which helps. It’s still a long season, but I’d venture a guess that there are four to five teams in the conference with a legitimate shot to win the MLS Cup and another two that could be contenders.

Within that conference are two teams are the biggest contenders to win it all, each with its own big storyline.

First, the Los Angeles Galaxy are going to have to figure out a way to play without Landon Donovan, who retired after last year. The Galaxy are in a good spot, however, with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes up front on the attack. Still, it’s worth watching to see how the defending champs without the league’s best player.

And then there’s the Seattle Sounders who, despite their regular season success, find their trophy cabinet MLS Cup-less. Last year the Sounders were one round away from making it to the MLS Cup final, but fell short to the Galaxy. Seattle returns the same basic squad, minus defender Deandre Yedlin, so expect them to be contenders this season.

These storylines, along with a host of others, will (hopefully) be answered this year in what will likely be the best season in the history of the league.

That season has to start without a strike, but hopefully those differences are settled before the season begins or without a work stoppage. But that’s another story for another day.

Predictions

·      Supporters’ Shield – Seattle

·      Western Conference playoff teams – Seattle, Los Angeles, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Houston

·      Eastern Conference playoff teams – D.C. United, Orlando City, New York City F.C., New England, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls

·      MLS Cup matchup – Seattle vs. Orlando City

·      MLS Cup Winner – Seattle

Power Rankings

1.    Seattle – The Seattle Sounders were the best team in the regular season last year, taking home the Supporter’s Shield and winning the U.S. Open Cup. But the Sounders couldn’t quite catch that elusive MLS Cup title that has dogged them the past few years. This year they’re set up once again to be favorites to take the title with forwards midfielder, and Texan, Clint Dempsey and forward Obafemi Martins, as well as a talented supporting cast. With the experience and passionate fan base, Seattle has to be considered a top team in MLS, if only for the start of the season.

2.    Los Angeles – The Galaxy will take a hit in their chance to repeat with U.S. legend Landon Donovan retiring, but there’s more to this team than Donovan. Forwards Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes made a significant impact up front for Los Angeles last year and will again team up to be a potent attacking duo. Add in Steven Gerrard at the summer transfer window and the Galaxy are in a great spot to repeat as champs once again.

3.    Orlando City – Of the two expansion teams joining the league this season, Orlando City is the most likely to make some noise and potentially find itself in a position to make it to the MLS Cup. Of course, everyone knows about Brazilian forward Kaka, but City features more than that. Orlando should set in goal with Jamaican national team goalie Donovan Rickets. And if midfielder Brek Shea can find the same success he had a few years ago with FC Dallas, City might have a solid attack.

4.    New York City F.C. – Of course, the biggest name team coming into this year is New York City F.C. under the combined ownership of Manchester City and the New York Yankees. While some uncertainty still looms over whether or not midfielder Frank Lampard will make the transfer from Manchester, City have a solid team in place anyway with forward David Villa, midfielder Mix Diskerud and defender George John. With a relatively weak Eastern Conference, NYC F.C. will certainly be contenders to make it to the MLS Cup.

5.    Sporting Kansas City – Last year was a disappointment for Sporting K.C., dropping out of the postseason in the wild card round a year after making it to the MLS Cup. And things won’t get much easier for them this season either as Kansas City, along with Houston, make the jump to the stacked Western Conference. Still, SKC boasts of U.S. national team players midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler, and forward Dom Dwyer became a force to be reckoned with last year. It won’t be easy in the Western Conference, but Sporting will not be an easier out for anybody this season.

The Bench – 6. Real Salt Lake, 7. New York Red Bulls, 8. D.C. United, 9. Houston, 10. FC Dallas

Games to Watch

·      New York City F.C. at Orlando City, 4 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2
Great scheduling from the MLS scheduling crew resulted in the two expansion teams facing off against each other to start off the season. But while it seems like a gimmick, this should still be a great match. Both teams come is as contenders right off the bat to top the Eastern Conference. Both teams also feature big names such as Kaka and Villa. This game should be the best game of the weekend.

·      New England at Seattle, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1
Of the teams we know about and are returning, this should be the best match of the weekend. New England was oh so close to coming away with the MLS Cup last year, falling in the final minutes to Los Angeles. The Revolution have a bright star in midfielder Lee Nguyen and also feature U.S. national team defender Jermaine Jones. Seattle, as mentioned earlier, have been close to getting to the MLS Cup, but have yet to fulfill that goal. With the great Seattle fans providing the backdrop, this should be a fun one.

Rest of the Schedule

·      Chicago at Los Angeles – 9 p.m., Friday, MLS Live, UniMas

·      Montreal at D.C. United – 2 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Colorado at Philadelphia – 3 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Toronto F.C. at Vancouver – 5 p.m., Satuday, MLS Live

·      San Jose at FC Dallas – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Columbus at Houston – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Real Salt Lake at Portland – 9:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City – 6:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Stadium Series provides excitement for fans and players

The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks clashed in an inter-state rivalry game last weekend, and the reigning Stanley Cup Champions emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory over their enemy to the north.

The game was not played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, nor was it played at the SAP Center in San Jose.

Rather, the battle took place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Indeed, a hockey game was played outdoors in the Californian Bay Area. The temperature during the day in Santa Clara was in the 70s, and the puck-drop temperature was 57 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Although not completely commonplace, this is not a particularly new spectacle for the NHL. The most familiar locations for Stadium Series games are cold weather cities such as New York and Chicago. Recently, however, the NHL has experimented with playing regular season games in more temperate climates.

The successes couldn’t be much greater.

Last year, the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium. Yes, an ice hockey game was played in Los Angeles, California.

Bringing hockey to hotter outdoor climates is not the only enticing feature of the Stadium Series.  Live intermission performances by California’s own John Fogerty and the Grammy-winning Melissa Etheridge kept fans entertained even when the greatest game on ice was momentarily paused.

The NHL has played 15 outdoor games since 2003 primarily to engage current fans and to create new ones. Levi’s Stadium filled beyond capacity for this year’s tilt with more than 70,000 people in attendance.

Yet, the memories made at outdoor games are not just owned by the fans. The players that compete in front of these record crowds will certainly never forget their experiences, either.

"It was incredible. From start to finish, what an atmosphere," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after the game. "It was a once in-a-lifetime-type thing for us.”

Sharks coach Todd McLellan also shared his thoughts on the scene. “You talk about moments where the hair stands up on your neck," McLellan said, "and tonight was one of those moments.”

The fact that both teams are tied in the Western Conference standings and are currently battling each other for a playoff berth did not seem to matter Saturday night. Getting the opportunity to play hockey outdoors in front of a large number of passionate fans is something that even professional players and coaches cannot take for granted.

"The fact we lost was disappointing," McLellan admitted. "But to be part of it, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

 

A band performs on the Black Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest on Nov. 10 last year.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Fun Fun Fun Fest is upon us again, overtaking Auditorium Shores this weekend with a multitude of headliners and smaller, lesser-known gems appearing at the Black, Blue, Orange and Yellow stages. Here is The Daily Texan’s list of not-to-be-missed shows this year:    

Black Stage


Who: Iceage
When: Saturday at 4:05 p.m.
Iceage, who were originally one of the most cathartic and noisy post-hardcore bands in recent memory, have changed into something much more dynamic with their newest album, Plowing Into the Field of Love. Infusing stronger Gothic influences while incorporating the likes of horns and violins into their music, Iceage forged ahead with a more mature sound. The band was already a force of nature when it performed previously, so it will be interesting and well-worth it to see how the set changed to fit Iceage’s new style. 

Who: The Bots
When: Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

Brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei make up the Los Angeles grunge rock band The Bots, who released their first full-length album, Pink Palms, just last month. New to the music scene, the two produced their first album when they were still in grade school, and they have since performed alongside renowned bands, such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The album draws on punk, rock and some blues and folk influences to create a modern and energized garage
band sound. 

 

Blue Stage

Who: Run the Jewels
When: Friday at 4:15 p.m.

Although technically only formed in 2013, Run the Jewels have decades of experience behind them. The duo is the coming together of southern hip-hop extraordinaire Killer Mike and New York City mainstay El-P. Together, they make hip-hop that is even more intense, brutal and unrelenting than they do on their own. Their latest album, Run the Jewels 2, manages to build on everything they accomplished with their self-titled album from last year. It’s a grimier, crueler and bleaker collection of tracks, with the spitfire in each verse more palatable than ever.    

Who: Yelle
When: Friday at 6:15 p.m.

French techno-pop duo Yelle has taken the world by storm since their 2005 MySpace debut single “Je Veux Te Voir” became an Internet hit. They have been producing upbeat electronic pop albums ever since, influenced by an ever-present Euro-pop house music vibe that is universally accessible, Francophile or not. Complètement Fou, their 2014 album release, is perhaps the duo’s most relaxed, defined effort so far.

 

Orange Stage

Who: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
When: Saturday at 4:40 p.m.

Since 2007, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have been one of the most consistent indie-pop bands in the United States, from their distortion-filled debut to the now jangle and dream-pop influence on this year’s Days of Abandon. No matter which direction band mastermind Kip Berman and his cohorts head in, the result is still just as hook-filled and glorious as it
was before. 

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Angel Olsen is a wonderful mixture between old Americana and new indie singer-songwriter, with her trademark crooning vocals and understated acoustic harmonies. Her latest album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, was released this year and is a far cry from her debut in 2010, which explored much heavier basslines, reminiscent of garage rock. Olsen’s stage presence this year, at shows such as SXSW in the spring, has consistently been described as understated and intimate but
never restrained.

Who: Foxygen
When: Sunday at 3:35 p.m.

Psychedelic rock band Foxygen formed in 2005 when the Los Angeles based duo started releasing home-recorded albums during high school. Foxygen recently released their third album, ...And Star Power. Although they call their music experimental, this album is reminiscent of classic rock bands such as the Rolling Stones and The Kinks, both of whom Foxygen has cited as
major influences. 

 

 Yellow Stage 

Who: Majical Cloudz
When: Friday at 7:20 p.m.

Majical Cloudz is the electronic duo of Matthew Otto and Devon Welsh. It’s a simple setup, with Otto producing the band’s melancholic beats and synths while Welsh emotes his sparse but emotionally filled lyrics. The band manages to turn what would be a terribly boring set into something far from that, conveying every piece of pathos in their songs in a live setting, frequently causing complete silence to fall over the crowd and tears shed.

Workers on Congress Ave. put together a half pipe on Tuesday for the upcoming X-Games. 
 

Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

Austin's first X Games will kick off Thursday night in front of the Texas State Capitol on Congress Avenue before shifting venues to Circuit of the Americas in South Austin on Friday.

Austin will host the four-day extreme sports competition — which includes skateboarding, BMX and motocross — each summer through 2017. ESPN, which owns the X Games, chose Austin to replace Los Angeles as the host of the summer games over other finalists Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The kickoff will consist of BMX and skateboarding events at a temporary vert ramp starting at 5 p.m. and will also feature former skateboarding professional Tony Hawk. 

Julie Loignon, Circuit of the Americas spokeswoman, said having the majority of the events at the circuit will allow attendees to experience the games in one location.

“[This gives] the ability to have more of a one-stop-shop kind of experience, where you can see all the competitions you want, you can be part of the music scene, and, if you have any downtime, you can go into all these really cool villages and just play,” Loignon said.

From 2003 to 2013, when the X Games were held in Los Angeles, the events were held across the city in multiple venues, two of which were about 20 miles apart.

Sgt. Jeff Crawford, who works in APD’s special events unit, said the containment of the X Games’ events makes the police department’s job easier than if it were spread throughout the city.

“It’s like the difference between having a concert at Auditorium Shores and a concert at the Erwin Center,” Crawford said. “That was a big relief in my mind that, ‘Hey, they’re going to have it [at Circuit of the Americas], so we’re not trying to turn a whole bunch of downtown surface streets into a big venue.’”

ESPN estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 people will attend the kickoff event downtown Thursday, Crawford said.

“It’s not going to be just like a flood of people all over downtown,” Crawford said. “For a few hours, it’ll be a few thousand extra, but I don’t think anything too dramatic over a normal weekend on Sixth Street.”

At last year’s X Games in Los Angeles, 100,000 people attended the events.

Kaitlyn Clark, a spokeswoman for Mayor Lee Leffingwell, said the X Games will benefit Austin’s economy, as well as exposing Austin to multiple countries around the world. ESPN will broadcast the X Games in more than 215 countries and territories, and 410 million households will see the games, according to its website.

“To get Austin on the international stage like that is just a really exciting opportunity,” Clark said.

Partly because of the X Games, many bus routes that formerly ran down Congress Avenue began permanently running along Guadalupe and Lavaca on Tuesday, according to Capital Metro.

Loignon said Circuit of the Americas will not provide shuttle service to the venue because the parking lot is large enough for all the expected attendees. According to Loignon, the Circuit expects the majority of attendees to be from the U.S., but some international visitors are expected to attend as well.

Senior middle distance runner Katie Hoaldridge competes in the 2014 Texas Relays. Hoaldridge is using her experience on the track and field team to pursue a career in the music industry.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The NCAA proudly flaunts that the overwhelming majority of its athletes — 99 percent, according to some sources — go professional in something other than sports. 

Senior middle distance runner Katie Hoaldridge has made it a point to throw her energy — and there’s a lot of it, in her case — behind both aspects of the student-athlete classification. 

The senior has achieved first team all-Big 12 status in the 800-meters, indoor 1,000 meters and indoor distance medley, becoming one of Texas’ best middle distance runners as she strives for records on the track. 

In addition, Hoaldridge already has her degree in radio-television-film and hopes to balance her possible future in track with the pursuit of a career in the music industry.

Hoaldridge took the fall semester away from the team for the communication school’s “Semester in Los Angeles” program, which gave her an opportunity to work with Sony Music and Warner Brothers. This made some of her coaches a tad nervous. 

“[Head coach Mario Sategna] jokingly was like, ‘If I would have been in charge when you got the go to do that, I wouldn’t have let you,’” Hoaldridge said. “But it kind of worked out in my favor.” 

Sategna may have been hesitant to let one of his top veterans take leave from the team during the offseason, but he recognizes that academics come before the athletics. 

“We’ve always talked to them about using track and field as a springboard, and what better way to be here at the University of Texas and to be here for the right reasons?” Sategna said. “When you have juniors and seniors, they’re looking on to their next career opportunity. We want to support them to the fullest.” 

Hoaldridge’s decision to pursue an internship in Los Angeles meant that she had to work even harder to maintain her national-championship-caliber fitness level. 

“It was so hard,” Hoaldridge said. “I would wake up at 6 a.m. … then I wouldn’t get home until 8 p.m., and then I’d just go to the gym because it would be night time, and I’m not going to go run by myself in Los Angeles.”

Her performance this season has proven that even major obstacles, such as a significant lack of sleep and being thousands of miles from her coaching staff, do not fluster the senior. Hoaldridge anchored the 4x800 meter relay team to a second-place finish at the Texas Relays and has posted what should be an 800-meter qualifying time for the NCAA West Regionals, where a strong performance could land her in the championship meet.

“I would like to close out the season with a good performance at NCAAs.” Hoaldridge said. “I’ve never made [the NCAAs] individually before.”

A strong showing at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships this summer would serve as a wonderful transition from one career into another, but, if an opportunity arises, Hoaldridge would still love to run after college. 

“Obviously, if I go full throttle in the music industry, that’s not necessarily going to be an option because I probably will never sleep,” Hoaldridge said. “But, if that is an option, I would love to pursue it. This season kind of determines my next move, but, if I can run, I would love to.”

One of the most important and overlooked episodes in the history of the American West was the battle over the water of Owens Valley in California around the turn of the 20th century.

The California Water Wars, as the quarrel became known, began a long tradition of conflict between the cities and rural areas of the West for the region’s most precious resource. One such dispute is taking place right now in Texas, over Austin’s share of the Colorado River.

The Owens Valley, populated mostly by small farmers and ranchers, had the misfortune to be the most accessible source of fresh water to the growing city of Los Angeles. The leaders of that city, eager to sustain its rapid expansion, engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception and underhanded tactics to strong-arm the locals out of their water.

Once the rights to the water were secured, they built a 223-mile-long aqueduct to divert it from Owens Valley to Los Angeles. Owens Valley dried up, and everybody knows what happened to Los Angeles.

Cut to central Texas in the present day.

The Lower Colorado River Authority, which manages water, energy and flood control for much of Central and Southeast Texas, came under fire in August for debating whether to artificially lower the level of Lake Austin by 2 to 4 feet to capture more rainfall and deal more effectively with the current drought.

Lake Austin is normally kept at a constant level with inflows from Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan further upstream.

Many Austinites, primarily those with lakefront property that would be devalued if the water receded, vehemently protested the plan to lower the water level. LCRA Chairman Timothy Timmerman announced on Sept. 12 that the idea had been shelved.

“Our board is looking at innovative ways to expand and extend our water supply, but the idea of lowering the lakes is not and has not been a serious consideration,” Timmerman said.

The next innovative proposal, it seems, is to shut off the flow of fresh water from the Highland lakes to Matagorda Bay, the second-largest estuary system on the Texas Gulf Coast. On Sept. 18, the LCRA board voted to request an exemption from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s requirement that it release fresh water from the lakes to the bay.

If the LCRA gets its way, the denial of water to Matagorda Bay would persist for 120 days, or until the combined level of Lakes Travis and Buchanan returns to 900,000 acre-feet. It currently sits at 638,000 acre-feet, or 32 percent full, and in the current climate such a rise seems unlikely.

Matagorda Bay depends on the consistent influx of fresh water from the Colorado to sustain its ecosystem, which includes a wide variety of fish, shellfish, waterfowl and other wildlife. Salinity levels have risen in the estuary due to cuts LCRA has already made to the freshwater flows, and cutting the flows off completely would almost certainly push the salinity to lethal levels.

It’s not only a question of environmental conservation. One of the state’s largest shrimping fleets operates in Matagorda Bay, and local officials say the rising salinity levels have already hurt the area’s fishing industry.

Cutting the bay’s fresh water would save less than 5 percent of the amount Austin uses in a year. Austin currently operates under Stage 2 water restrictions, and residents can only water their lawns once a week. The city has done an admirable job in recent years of lowering its total water consumption despite increasing its population, but in such a severe drought we fail to understand why the lawns need to be watered at all. They’re lawns.

We agree with those in the Matagorda Bay area that the estuary needs the water far more than Austin does if Austin still has enough left over to water lawns and preserve expensive lakefront property. The amount of water that goes to Matagorda Bay is insignificant next to the amount used by Austin, and in times of scarcity, it’s only fair that the most demanding consumers should bear the heaviest burden.

Sadly, the protesters from the bay area and from state environmental groups failed to persuade the LCRA, as the louder voices of Austin’s lakefront property owners had succeeded less than a week before in convincing the agency to not lower Lake Austin. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a little under two weeks to approve the agency’s request. We hope they send the LCRA back to the drawing board.

Professional BMX rider Aaron Ross, who lives in Austin, has ridden in nine X Games and was a commentator at the BMX segment of last
summer’s X Games.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Within the state of Texas, sports are a way of life. Home to two MLB teams, two NFL teams, three NBA teams, NBC’s Friday Night Lights and a mob of frenzied fans, Texas is known for its all-American, traditional sports culture.

But the decision by ESPN to bring the summer X Games, a competition featuring events including motocross, rallycross, skateboarding and BMX, to Austin next May has the power to change the culture of extreme, alternative sports here in Central Texas. It also has the power to change the perception of Austin. 

“Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World,” said local skater Colten Perry, an Austinite who was involved with the committee organizing Austin’s bid for the X Games. “But we could be known for extreme sports as well. I think the X Games are going to bring more of that here.” 

Austin was chosen last week by ESPN to host the summer X Games in May 2014. Austin, which is replacing Los Angeles, was one of four finalists. The X Games will take place next month in Los Angeles for the last time.

The city’s new Circuit of the Americas complex in South Austin, which hosts Formula 1, was heavily involved in bringing the X Games to Austin and will host most of the competitions next year. 

Aaron Ross, a professional BMX rider who is from Corpus Christi but currently resides in Austin, has ridden in nine different X Games. Despite not participating in recent games, Ross has stayed involved with ESPN and X Games and was the commentator for last summer’s X Games for the BMX portion of the competitions. 

“For the last 15 years, Austin has been one of the biggest BMX cities in the world,” Ross said.

Because of its outdoor-friendly residents, Ross said, Austin is the prime spot for the X Games and it made sense for ESPN to choose Austin over other options. 

“Austin is such a young city, such an outdoors city, everyone enjoys being outside,” Ross said. “It makes sense. It’s going to open a lot of doors and minds for this sport to what it is and what it can be.” 

With the construction of the Circuit of the Americas facilities and the Formula 1 competitions, Ross said Austin is emerging into the motor sports scene.

In addition, Austin is emerging as a landing point for professional athletes in the extreme sports related to the X Games.

“When someone decides to go pro, they move somewhere like Austin because we have tons of filmers, tons of photographers,” Ross said. “We have media here, we have big contests.”

 

Economic Benefits

While the announcement of the X Games moving to Austin resulted in a lot of excitement for local BMX fans, business owners might have a different reason to be excited.

Just as any national event would, the X Games is expected to bring millions of dollars to the city’s economy. Austin, already home to events including Austin City Limits, South By Southwest and Formula 1, could profit substantially from tourists visiting Austin for the weekend event in May 2014.

Paul Thornton, Circuit of the Americas director of events and entertainment, said events bring tourists with money to spend to Austin, which will result in more jobs, more infrastructure, better restaurants and shops as well as increases in property values.

Circuit of the Americas and the Austin Chamber of Commerce did not have an estimate for how much money the X Games could bring to Austin’s local economy, but both groups cited that the X Games brought Los Angeles more than $50 million in 2010.

“We expect that or more here because we have more capacity to grow,” Thornton said.

Ashley Nicole Hardy, Austin Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, said the city can expect similar results that Los Angeles received, including 135,000 annual visitors.

Hardy said the X Games will be valuable to Austin because, similar to Formula 1, it brings international attention to the city.

“This is the second year in a row now that we’ve received something like this that wasn’t homegrown,” Hardy said. “Something like this makes Austin hyper-valuable in the global market.”


Tomas Pena performs a trick on his BMX bike at the Austin BMX & Skate Park on Saturday afternoon.

Alternative sports

While Austin may reap economic benefits, fans of the X Games and extreme sports athletes may see their pastime enter the spotlight. 

Perry, who has been skating for 13 years, emphasized how big the skate community and BMX community are in Austin and how much it would help those people. 

“It’s really important to help the skate community thrive and become bigger in the state of Texas,” Perry said. 

Perry is also involved in the Texas Skateboarding Club, an organization committed to promoting alternative sports to youth across Texas. 

“The skate scene here is so close, everyone knows each other and there are more and more people starting to skate,” Perry said. “It seems like families here in Austin are a little more open-minded.”

The presence of the X Games in Austin will also greatly help local businesses. Shane Riley, store manager at Fast Forward, predicts it will help businesses, including his, get more exposure and be able to help more people, especially beginners, ride. 

“The more people that know about Fast Forward and the more people that are excited about skating, the better it is for us,” Riley said. 

While local businesses and skaters are looking forward to how much Austin could grow as a result, some have expressed hesitation. 

“Some of the native Austinites are not as for it because they don’t want Austin to get bigger,” Perry said. “Most people, however, are so open to things here that I think it will be well-received and be a good opportunity for Austin.”

Circuit of the Americas is currently taking email addresses to notify fans when tickets go on sale for the Austin X Games in May 2014. 

 

X Games Definitions

X Games — Sporting event, controlled by ESPN, focusing on extreme, alternative, action sports. Motocross — Motorcycle racing on off-road tracks or circuits. Different types of competition featuring skill and speed.
BMX ­— Bicycle Motocross. Bicycle racing, motocross style, on tracks with obstacles and an inline start. Features trick riders, jumps and precision competition.
Rallycross — Automobile road racing. Closed circuit racing on a variety of courses.
Mountain Bike Slopestyle — Skill and trick riding on a natural course. No head-to- head racing.

PHOENIX  — No explosives were found on a Southwest Airlines plane that was diverted to Phoenix with 143 passengers on board, authorities said.

The FBI said Monday that an afternoon flight from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, landed in Phoenix after someone called in a bomb threat.

Laura Eimiller of the FBI's Los Angeles field office said Flight 2675 left Los Angeles International Airport at 2:12 p.m. and was heading to Austin before the threat was received by telephone.

F-16s were scrambled out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson to monitor the flight as a precaution as it flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, according to NORAD officials.

Flight 2675 landed safely at about 3 p.m., and authorities in Los Angeles asked Phoenix police to check out the possible threat.

The plane's crew and 143 passengers got off the plane and boarded several buses.

All passengers were interviewed by Monday evening, FBI special agent Manuel Johnson said in a statement. Investigators were making all efforts to identify the caller who made the bomb threat, he said.

The investigation continued Tuesday and no arrest has been made, Johnson said.

Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said the plane was isolated on the tarmac away from terminals.

Flights took off and landed only on the airport's two south runways Monday evening due to the investigation, and some arrivals were delayed, Rodriguez said.

The passengers from the diverted plane were flown to Austin on another flight, arriving early Tuesday morning, Southwest spokeswoman Katie MacDonald said.

The plane that was diverted was returned to service Tuesday, she said.