Cologne, Munich, and Stuttgart, Germany. Valencia, Spain. Manchester,
England and Vancouver, Canada. How about Hartford, Connecticut? By building
an indoor velodrome we can instantly put a Connecticut community on
a world map with those cities.
Courtesy of Mike Gladu, Infinite
A velodrome is a
banked oval track, usually concrete or wood, built for racing bicycles.
There are 19 active velodromes in the U.S., with the nearest in Eastern
Pennsylvania. Quite a few New Englanders regularly make that four-hour
trek to watch or compete in races. The nearest indoor track is Vancouver.
Their bike clubs newsletter boasts they are becoming more popular
than the local NHL franchise.
a velodrome what will track racing do for the region?
Athletes will come
from all over the world. These professionals will not be like NFL or
NHL stars buying huge houses in the suburbs. They are young people who
will need more modest housing in the city, and a loft community in a
revitalized warehouse district might be ideal. Watching these athletes
compete on Friday nights will be exciting entertainment high
speed, elbow-to-elbow action thats 100% visible, understandable
and more affordable than even a minor league ball game. A track will
allow us to host events such as the National and World Championships,
the Goodwill Games, and the Pan-Am games.
Cycling, track cycling
in particular, has a huge following in Europe. A track here will benefit
local colleges and universities, not only by giving their cycling teams
a home for events and practice, but by strengthening their overseas
recruitment effort as well. Many prospective European (or West Indian
or South/Central American) students are cycling enthusiasts that will
see a velodrome as an attraction.
racing is only part of the picture, the most visible tip of the iceberg.
Development programs form the massive base. This is where kids and local
folks will be introduced to the sport. Air Products Inc. has sponsored
a program in Pennsylvania for 25 years that has produced numerous national,
Olympic, and world champions. More importantly, thousands of young riders
have delighted in learning the sport and its lessons in fitness, tactics,
and teamwork. The programs enrollment is filled for the next three
author rounds the corner at Jewell and Trumbull streets, May 1998.
(Photo by Karen Haas)
Track racing is
an affordable way to enter the sport. The bikes have a single gear and
no brakes, and cost a fraction of what their multi-speed road and mountain
counterparts cost. The reduced emphasis on equipment makes the sport
more accessible, like BMX. There are BMX tracks in Bethel, Torrington
and Meriden, and more on the way in Danielson and Brooklyn. Hartford
has its own youth BMX team. BMX is a logical inclusion with the velodrome,
and young riders will benefit from this connection because it opens
the door to international and Olympic competition.
Connecticut what can our area offer the velodrome?
Olympian Raoul Lachapelle on the Hartford Velodrome, circa 1927.
(Photo Courtesy of Al Lachapelle)
Connecticut is steeped
in cycling history. The first bicycle was patented in New Haven. There
were once 32 velodromes between Boston and New York, forming a lucrative
and hotly contested racing circuit. In the late 1920s, the outdoor
track in East Hartford filled its 20,000 seats several times a week.
Making bicycles was big business and the worlds finest were made
in Parkville by Colonel Pope.
Presently, the Eastern
U.S. is a hotbed of cycling activity. The RIDE Magazine maintains
that this is the #1 region in the world. There are major racing communities
in Boston and New York, and Connecticuts location will draw riders
from both places. There are one-day cycling events in Connecticut that
see over 1,200 competitors. The First Union pro cycling championship
has rejuvenated sections of Philadelphia on its way to becoming the
worlds biggest one-day race, attracting almost a million spectators.
Cycling has flourished despite our winter climate, and an indoor velodrome
will succeed because of it.
Southern New England
has a dense population of colleges and universities, and collegiate
racing is this countrys top growth market. Its team-based format
makes novices just as important as the stars for accumulating points.
A track here would be home base for several school teams, giving them
a site to train and compete year round.
One vision for the
velodrome has it as a centerpiece of the National Cycling Center. Sports
medicine, performance testing, and retail businesses will help make
the facility financially viable. An outdoor cycling park, cycling/ transportation
history museum, and Hall of Fame will make it a tourist destination.
The Union Cycliste International recently announced the construction
of a similar World Cycling Center in Lausanne, Switzerland for $12 million.
We can put ourselves on that world map by building the nations
only indoor velodrome, instantly establishing Connecticut as a center
of cycling excellence.
Concepts for the
renaissance of Connecticut's cities are taking shape, and plans for
many multi-million dollar projects are vying for attention. This is
a relatively modest project that ties together our past and present,
establishes a link among the colleges with our kids and community, while
making Connecticut a worldwide destination. The State should consider
this a sound investment in the region's economic future.