Kris Bennett Has a TV Show

BMX legend / trail god / all-around great guy Kris Benett is coming back into your lives - and it's in a way you're probably not expecting. Post-BMX, Kris got into restoring houses and, apparently, he's damn good at it. I had heard rumblings of his success from mutual friends, but didn't realize just how far Kris has gone in his new career until I learned he's the star of a new TV show on HGTV. I caught up with Kris to talk about his life after BMX, how this whole thing came to be, and when you can expect to see him inside of your living room.

When exactly would you say your career as a professional BMX rider actually ended?

I'd say that it ended sometime around 2007 or 2008.

How did you know it was over? Did the checks quit coming, you quit enjoying it, or something completely different?

I knew it was over when the fact that I needed to get paid was my only motivation to progress. I felt like the industry was passing me by and all I really wanted to do was flow some trails and maybe throw out a trick or two. Obviously though, when sponsors are paying you, you owe it to them to keep up and stay relevant. Riding was my career and my primary source of income for several years, but it had still always been intrinsically rewarding to progress. As soon as that ended and I was just doing it because I felt like I had to, it really created a mental block for me and killed my motivation. I decided to step away and not force the issue. I didn't want to hang on to every last scrap. I was ready for a new adventure.

How often are you on your BMX bike these days?

My generic answer is always "not as often as I would like." Haha! It's tough to find the time while maintaining the businesses and the family. My sons are starting to approach riding age though, so I'm really banking on that to pull me back into it. I'll usually have a kick once or twice a year where I'm riding pretty consistently for a week or two, but for the most part, I'd average it out to be once every month or so at best.

I know you had some behind-the-scenes roles in the BMX world with Deluxe and Square One. Are you still involved there?

Yeah. I'm actually part owner of Deluxe with Justin and Roth Desko. They're two really good friends that I've been riding with since the childhood BMX racing years. I'm not as involved in the day-to-day nuts and bolts of the company as much as I am the more global view. Public perception, brand identity - things like that. As for Square One, we're actually working on resurfacing the Square One brand in some way under the Deluxe umbrella. We haven't figured out the exact details quite yet, but that's something that will be coming soon.

How did you start renovating houses?

Well, after my professional BMX career came to an end, I naturally had to figure out what was next. 28-years-old, no college education, no job experience... The transition was a bit rocky. We tried the bike shop thing for a while and that didn't really pan out. At one point, I was actually bussing tables at restaurant. You can imagine the humbling experience of throwing shit into a buss pan while catching glimpses of the X Games on the restaurant TV. Haha! It was all good, though. I knew something would come up and, eventually, it did. It was actually my friend Jim Winschel - he made the video Empire East - that suggested I get into real estate. He had been working in real estate for a while and, when the market crashed, he suggested that I jump in and try it myself. So, I did just that. I bought a cheap, crappy house to flip and did a majority of the work myself. It was a painful and frankly disastrous process, but for some reason, when it was all said and done, I had a strong desire to learn from my mistakes and try again. So, I moved onto the next, and I've been doing it ever since.

How long have you been doing this?

I bought that first house in 2009, so I'm coming up on eight years.

How exactly did this television show come about?

A production company out of LA reached out to us back in 2015. Apparently, the way it works is that the networks - HGTV in this case - send mandates out to the production companies to let them know what type of programming they're looking for. HGTV wanted more "house flip" shows, so the production companies went on the hunt. Our particular production company found us via our Instagram page. It started as a cold email asking if we were interested in being on a reality show, followed by a series of Skype interviews, and the eventual filming of a "sizzle reel," which is basically a two or three minute trailer for a TV show. They then pitched the sizzle reel to HGTV and they almost immediately ordered a pilot. We filmed the pilot over the Summer of 2016 and wrapped it up in the fall. Then it went through their post production process and eventually we got our air date. Now, we just sit back and wait for ratings to find out if we're going to do a full season.

What exactly is the premise of the show?

Basically, my team and I look at three potential houses to buy and renovate and eventually decide on one. Then, a majority of the episode follows us through the process of gutting and rehabbing the house to get it ready for market. At the end it shows the before and after reveal and eventual open house.

Tell us a little about Pittsburgh’s “East End" area that you're working within...

The East End is a small pocket of Pittsburgh that includes six or seven different neighborhoods - a lot of which had been blighted over the past twenty or thirty years. Recently though, given the wide spread revitalization of Pittsburgh, a lot of these neighborhoods are starting to clean back up again and the housing stock is being renovated back to its former state.

Does your BMX past come up in the show at all?

It is mentioned briefly, yes, and there are a few old clips in the episode. My Project Manager, Cameron, has a pretty big role in the show, and he still rides quite a bit - significantly more than I do actually. Haha. He's busy with work like me, but he doesn't yet have the family obligations that I do, so that gives him a little bit more time to stay on the bike. Anyway, given the fact that we both have a strong background in BMX, it is mentioned on a few occasions. If we go to a full season, I anticipate that it will be a more prevalent storyline moving forward. At least I hope so.

How about your world-famous temper?

I hope this doesn't come as too much of a disappointment to the BMX community, but the temper is never on display at any point during the show. Haha! I've actually calmed down a lot in my old age. Aside from the occasional road-rage incident, the temper rarely shows its face these days.

As we’ve all come to know, most reality-based television shows are pretty fabricated. Is your show pretty true-to-life?

This show is actually pretty true-to-life. From what I'm hearing, we really lucked out with our production company. I've heard of a lot of producers trying to stir up drama between cast members or fabricate story lines, but that wasn't the case in our situation. Our producer really liked the light hearted and tight-knit vibe that our crew has going on, and they wanted to concentrate on trying to capture that as opposed to fabricated drama.

It seems like you’re doing awesome and your business is kicking ass. What advice do you have for BMX riders when it comes to “life after being a pro?”

Yeah, that's definitely the million dollar question. All I know is what worked for me and that's that you have to find something that you can completely give yourself to the same way you did BMX for so many years. Without that, it's tough to be truly happy. When the love and the drive for BMX comes to an end, it leaves an enormous void. I tried for a long time to fill that void and I was finally able to do so with what I'm doing now. I think the misconception is that the dream is over post-BMX career and you're forced to settle for a "normal" life. That's not the case at all though. Anyone who has that "it" factor that allows them to reach a point where they're getting paid to ride a BMX bike has more than what it takes to pick another passion and make a life out of that as well. Learning to give yourself to something and make a life out of it is a widely applicable skill.

How and when can everybody watch Steel City Rehab?

Steel City Rehab airs on HGTV this Sunday, April 30th at 12:00 noon. (11:00 central).

Riding Photo: Justin Kosman

Lifestyle Photo: HGTV

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1 comment
  • dave lawrence

    4/27/2017 5:56 PM

    That's awesome!