New Velodromes - Progress
Back again with my irregular update on the status of Britain’s new competitive cycle tracks. And first off the ones that are finished. Now that London has successfully completed its first big test - the World Cup last weekend - we can tick that one off as ready to go. I won’t go on about what happens after the Olympics because few are looking that far ahead.
Now January is not the best time to check out an outdoor track - but Bournemouth’s new 250m example looked ... excellent.
Meanwhile at Derby .. “The size and cost of Derby's multi-use sports centre plans for Pride Park have already risen by nearly £2 million over its original budget. The city council had planned to spend £20 million on the centre, with a velodrome at its core on the park and ride site. However, the authority said the plans had now expanded to include a health and well-being centre and community rooms. It means the footprint has increased by a third and the cost has gone up to £21.9 million. It is about to begin the process for appointing a contractor to begin work on site. The successful firm is expected to be chosen by April and work could then start on the arena in the summer to coincide with the Olympic games in London.” Derby Telegraph 14-Feb-2012
And Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games velodrome looks to be well on target even though I have yet to spot a target date for the first event. Let’s hope it is in use well ahead of the Games themselves - booked for 24 July to 3 August 2014.
Update: 28-Jun-2012 on Marketing Derby web site
“Plans are moving forward for the development on the Derby Arena – a £22m multi-sports arena which will also be used for large conferences and a concert venue. Derby City Council have shortlisted potential builders and a decision is expected within the next two weeks on the Pride Park project.” [Two weeks = 12-Jul-2012. Ed]
What’s Happening with the New Velodromes? Part 4
Back in August it was announced that construction company Mace had been been awarded the contact to build a new arena in Derby. The main feature will be a 250m indoor velodrome - re-useable as a concert venue - as well as badminton courts and dance studios. The new arena will be built on the site of a council-owned park and ride and should be started in 2012. It looks like some existing Derby sports facilities will close - and seems, to me, to reduce the chances that Leicester velodrome will be going ahead. But an indoor track is much more attractive than one outdoors for any potential UK promoters. So some real progress - even though Mace still did not have any details of the Derby contract on their web site when I checked today. But it still looks good and Derby could, perhaps, now become the venue for Britain’s first six day race since 1980 - given the problems with London in 2009 and the lack of interest at Manchester?
Meanwhile on Merseyside, Knowsley’s Leisure and Culture Park (at Longview Drive, Huyton) was due to be opened at the end of September 2011. However there was still much to be done as at the last update, with the 400m outdoor velodrome and BMX track (in the track centre) not due to open until December 2011. The Merseyside cyclists must be a hardy lot to have the launch of an new outdoor track in Dec! Photos...
What’s Happening with the New Velodromes? Part 3
This week the new 250m track at Bournemouth was official opened - a real step forward in regional racing. And so that means this part of the south coast has both indoor and outdoor tracks available - time to get more new blood into the sport from the grass roots.
And further north construction work on Glasgow’s Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is making excellent progress looking at the latest photos.
About mid-way between the two there is more to support the promise that Derby will get it’s new velodrome - with this independent media release put out last April. However it is just a third-party report of an objective not a contract to build. But still as long as there is progress that’s good news.
What’s Happening with the New Velodromes? Part 2
Back in February I said that the plans for a Derby velodrome had gone missing. But no - now they are back - and making progress apparently. Having been caught out before by promises that never materialised I am now trying to find out if the progress is on a project to create a report about something that might happen OR on a project that already has the funding to actually build something? So far the only response is that it’s “quite far along”.
And this photo illustrates why I am cautious. It shows progress on the Leicester dirt-o-drome - sorry velodrome - as at last month. And this is as far as it goes! Somehow I don’t think it would get UCI approval; even for cyclo-cross. Having watched the best in the world compete at Saffron Lane - the track that this venue is supposed to replace - it really does make me despair.
All those national and local politicians that make grand promises and the jobs-worths that spend all the budgets on pointless studies should be rounded up and forced to ride a Six Day race round here. An old-style 24-hour per day six day - with a “Devil” every hour. A devil where the last over the line is eliminated - in the mafia meaning of eliminated. [If that is not allowed under EU rules then perhaps their salaries could simply be paid into an Iraqi bank - for collection in person only].
“Those who are not conversant with cycle racing conditions in this country may well ask why there are so few English riders in the race. The reason is the complete absence of suitable banked tracks for our riders to develop.” - Bill Bailey, four times world sprint champion - writing in 1939. Things are always changing - yet everything is still the same.
London Opens - but now what?
This week the UK media has been full of news about the completion of the first venue for next year’s games - the velodrome. With interviews of medal winners from last time and riders in Team GB strip circling the track it looked like the launch of the big build-up.
But with the work on other facilities still in progress, Manchester remaining the national centre and an apparent desire to “keep the track from getting worn” this may not be so. In fact the track could be in for a quiet time for the rest of 2011.
So even though the road riders seem likely to get a test event in August 2011 - it could be early 2012 before the GB riders get a chance to learn about the new track’s characteristics. Lets just hope that “British Fairplay” does not create an artificial obstacle in the way that stops the venue’s benefits being realised as soon as possible. Because after the games there will be a lot of hard work needed to make the track into a permanent success.
What’s Happening with the New Velodromes?
First the good news - as you may have already read at British Cycling - sunny Bournemouth looks “on track” to come from nowhere and have wheels in action on a new 250m velodrome by May 2011. See the Bournemouth Cycling Centre web site for news as it happens. [Looks like I need to make a trip down to my old club soon].
Now the bad news - “A planned £27 million velodrome in Northern Ireland is one of five high-profile sports facility projects to have fallen victim to £50 million in government cuts affecting the province” [from road.cc]. So forget any velodrome north or south of the border for this decade?
At Leicester the speedway stadium is promised to be action by April (2011) and the club seem pretty convinced since they are selling 2011 season tickets - even though the fixtures are yet to be published. No clues spotted at the British Cycling website about the planned velodrome next door though.
Similarly nothing about the Derby velodrome that was “definitely going ahead” just four months ago. In fact the forum entry on Veloriders about Derby now seems to have vanished - so perhaps it was just my imagination [I even tried searching for the exact quotation without success]. And recent claims that Nottingham’s former cycle track would be resurrected are just impossible dreams - IMHO.
But at least our oldest track(?), Herne Hill, seems to be getting an extension to its long and illustrious career. Elsewhere just getting accurate information is still a struggle - even for the pre-games events at London. Meetings, discussions and good intentions - no problems. But more reasons for digging out that old track jersey - none just yet.
New Tracks Plans - or should that be - Promises?
Six months on and there is little tangible progress to report. However good intentions are still to the fore.
Two weeks ago this was spotted on Veloriders - a new indoor velodrome for Derby “According to what was said at the County Club Forum, Derby is definitely going ahead, either at Pride Park or at a site in the centre of Derby that was an old supermarket. They have ring-fenced funding of £50m for the project and the building work should start in the next 18 months.”
So that would mean work would start in Derby by April 2012 - and so join Manchester, Newport, Calshot, London and Glasgow as the 6th indoor venue by sometime around 2014? Let’s hope the plans do actually go ahead despite the economic gloom. Also lets hope that events to the standard of the Manchester Revolution Series do find backers for London and Glasgow at least.
Meanwhile down the road at Beaumont Leys in Leicester there is still no known progress on the velodrome. Disappointing given that we are now three years on from the announcement (below). However it’s good to see that First Buses are still running services to the Saffron Lane Velodrome even though it closed years ago.
And in Downpatrick the only bit of recent news spotted about the velodrome there was - “With plans to redevelop the Downpatrick Leisure Centre imminent and potential plans to locate a National Velodrome in Downpatrick, an excellent opportunity exists to develop a state-of-the-art facility in this location. Such a sporting complex would not only serve as a major local resource but also be of national significance.” However this does come from glossy 71 page “Town Centre Masterplan” dated July 2010 from the Department for Social Development (who said there are too many civil servants?). However it was the long list of their advising consultants - The Paul Hogarth Company, DTZ, CB Richard Ellis, JMP, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Team Tourism Consulting - that rang the alarm bells in my head. With all these psuedo-private sector money-pits taking part it would not come as a surprise if enough tax-payer funding to build the track had not already been spent on salaries, fees and, of course, expenses.
Update 10-Dec-2010 - here is last available pic of the London Olympic track
New Tracks Plans - 2010 Version
There seems to be grindingly slow progress on any plans that don’t have a high profile and fixed target date. So while work on the new velodrome for London (and to a lesser extent Glasgow) ploughs ahead, good news of progress at other venues is hard to find.
New venues keep appearing - but they simply seem destined to join a growing list of “good intentions”. Take this story from Plymouth published in May 2009 -
“DEVON could soon be home to a state-of-the-art cycling centre after proposals to build a velodrome received financial backing. Both British Cycling and Devon County Council have pledged money to fund the construction of an outdoor velodrome in Kingsteignton. South West BC Regional Board and the Mid Devon Cycling Club have been campaigning for a velodrome to be built in the area. Andy Parker, Kingsteignton resident and chairman of the Mid Devon Cycling Club, said: "It would be wonderful to see a future Olympic cycling star emerging from the training received in our velodrome." Ken Robertson, South West regional secretary for British cycling, said: "This is obviously a very important development for the South West." John Smith, county councillor for Kingsteignton, said: "This terrific facility will really encourage both physical fitness and the greater use of the growing number of dedicated cycle routes that the County Council is developing across Devon.”
This was followed in November 2009 by -
“THE chairman of Devon's biggest cycling club has expressed his disappointment a bid for a velodrome in Kingsteignton has finally been scuppered. Mid Devon Cycling Club's Andrew Parker said his club has been told by Devon County Council a sporting complex, which included a cycling facility, won't happen in South Devon. He said: "We are disappointed — but remain positive for the future." The velodrome was going to be included in a vision for a £20 million centre of sporting excellence on land to the west of Old Exeter Road, Broadway. But the early-stage proposal was frustrated by the downturn in the economy. It was dependant on landowners Sibelco getting planning permission to build more than 600 new houses nearby. The idea was that once the housing scheme gained planning permission, land nearby would be released for the sports facilities to be built.”
So the cynical could suggest that the velodrome / sports facility was a carrot by the developers to get planning permission for 600 new homes. So not a national / regional strategy for sporting improvement - more a way of making big bucks on property development?
Thankfully the story at Leicester has not followed the same path. But again there were problems - the Saffron Lane Velodrome has been demolished (even though its ghost lives on in Google Earth at 52°36'51.76"N / 1° 8'8.04"W) - at an apparent cost of £100,000. Again the land at Saffron Lane was to be used for housing. However the first plan for 400 homes was turned down, this was then reduced to 250 homes but later withdrawn. Now a scheme for 120 homes has been proposed (Jan 2010) - with no news on the final outcome as yet. However there was a story that the ex-velodrome land may have been offered for a nominal £1 in order to incorporate low-cost homes within the development.
As for Leicester’s new track at Beaumont Leys - there is no direct news but just before Christmas the Leicester Mercury reported delays. “League speedway will not be returning to the city in the new year because a £4.5m stadium development has been hit by delays. The reformed Leicester Lions had been set to ride back into action after 27 years in the wilderness in March after its application to join the British Premier League was accepted. But the project has been dealt a blow because delays to the building of a stadium, in Beaumont Leys, mean it will now not be ready in time. It is still hoped some form of speedway will run at the complex next year. Beaumont Sports Complex (BSC), the company set up to oversee the project, said it hoped to run up to eight exhibition races to prepare for Leicester Lions' return to the league in 2011. The Bennion Road complex will also incorporate a cycling velodrome and 12 five-a-side football pitches.”
So Leicester’s story can be summarised as - demolish a world championship velodrome, give the land away and build another velodrome to a lower standard elsewhere. And since it was the council that let the old track decline let’s hope they do better with maintaining the new one.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the wheels are still turning - just about - with the news this month that - “NORTHERN Ireland's first velodrome is a step closer to being built in Downpatrick, it has been announced. Before being named "provisional preferred bidder" for the multi-million pound cycling facility, Down District Council had been competing against bids from Newry and Belfast. The council will now proceed to the next stage of the Elite Facilities Programme with its plans to build the velodrome, giving Ulster the first facility of its kind. It is hoped the velodrome, which will be owned and managed by Down District Council, will help attract major sporting events to Northern Ireland while bringing economic benefit to the local area and beyond. The velodrome plans include a 250m racing track, team changing rooms and an athletes lounge, management and events rooms, an inner track including badminton courts, five-a-side football facilities, and a short stay hostel.
A council spokeswoman said after that after three years of thorough planning, the announcement "marked another milestone" in Down District Council's bid. The third stage of the Elite Facilities Programme requires the council to resubmit its full business case, associated design and procurement strategy, which will be assessed for value for money, viability and need.
Following this assessment, the Minister for Sport will announce, subject to affordability, if the application has been successful.”
Finally I recently spotted a story that indicated that there could be a new track for Leeds. The downside, however, was that the article was dated June 1963! So by now that’s even longer than the wait for a new track at Harlow
Track Plan Progress - Part 4
Despite waiting 10 months before checking again on the proposed new velodromes there is not much apparent progress. The Glasgow venue will now be called the Sir Chris... but the only building work reported on the official website is that work has begun to clear the area.
The London Olympic venue is however making progress and getting plenty of media exposure - including a statement by Lord Coe within the last few days that the 2012 venues will be ready by 2011. So this would make the London Velodrome a working reality within 2 years.
In Ireland the velodrome plans do not seem to have been discussed by the NI Assembly since Sep-2008 - so things look bleak. And the national finances in the republic seem to be too bad to support such an investment for many years to come - if ever. Cut-backs are still the order of the day.
No news to add on Leicester - but in the context of commercially viable venues that was already a non-starter.
So today’s assessment is that within 5 years there will be 4 useable indoor velodromes in the British Isles. And taking a positive view that is far better than cycling fans could have realistically expected a decade ago.
What we will need next is the organisers and promoters that will take advantage of these new facilities. The Manchester Revolution series has been a great boost to track racing’s wider interest. London and Glasgow will need something just as good - but “as well as” rather than “instead of” the winter programmes at Manchester.
Track Plan Progress - Part 3
Not so much progress as a slip-up in the process for the Irish Velodrome plans. According to the “Down Democrat” web site -
“Velodrome now within reach for Down District.
A MISSED deadline by Down District’s main rival for an Olympic sized velodrome and leisure complex could see the facility established outside Downpatrick.
It has emerged that Belfast City Council was late in submitting its latest bid for the multi-million pound velodrome at a meeting with Sport Northern Ireland in November 08.
Now lawyers for the council are frantically attempting to put the wheels back on the capital’s case for the up-for-grabs funding.
Down District is the only other council which has (successfully) entered a bid in the second round of the process instigated by Sport NI as part of its Elite Facilities Programme.
A third bidder - a private company based outside Newry - remains in the race, but it is understood that the funding will most likely go to a public sector concern.”
So Belfast has missed the deadline - but will this speed up making a decision? Or will strings be pulled and a new, later target set - so delaying the process even more?
I will leave it up to you to supply the likely “Part 4” to this long-running story.
And not much to add about the Chris Hoy Velodrome for Glasgow. The contractor 3D-Reid has this CGI sample>> on their web site but little of substance. However there is a more detailed PDF download available from Culture & Sport Glasgow.
The last real news item I spotted was the withdrawal of master track designer, Ron Webb, from the project back in September. Hopefully no news is good news and construction will start as planned this summer.
Track Plan Progress - Part 2
It is now a year since the plans for a velodrome in Ireland were posted here - and I thought it was time to check up how far the projects had progressed. Fortunately the Irish Cycling web site had recently provided a brief update - “.. the deadline was last Friday and the three locations in Northern Ireland were submitted. That is Belfast, Newry and Co. Down. The next stage is that in January  there will be a technical assessment done of each of those applications. ... At that stage they will probably take in the region of six months before they identify a chosen candidate to proceed with. The most optimistic time [for an Irish velodrome] .... is late 2011. The most pessimistic is mid-2013.” Isn’t it great to see the political process in such high-speed action?
No updates yet on the situation at Leicester, Glasgow or London - or indeed if there has been some miracle at Harlow - but a lack of anything interesting on TV is encouraging me to dig deeper.
Track Plan Progress
5 March 2008
Three months on and nothing more as emerged from Cycling Ulster, Cycling Ireland or the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding the proposed Irish velodrome. I could say “watch this space” but then you may want to find better things to do for the next decade or two! You may think this is a cynical, even defeatist, view but then ...
How about this classic from a review published by the local Council in Harlow, Essex - “Wheeled sports are very popular; these include cycling, BMX, mountain biking, roller-skating, roller-blading, roller hockey, scooters, skateboarding and go-karts. Development or change of use to create a new facility, particularly located indoors, is required. The Harlow Velodrome was developed for offices in the early 1990’s, it has proven very difficult to identify an acceptable site for the location of a new facility within the town. Any new facility should aim to be multipurpose for many types of wheeled sports. Although an indoor multi-use facility is sought, this may be difficult to provide so outdoor facilities are acceptable to help meet this sport deficit.”
To summarise a complicated story, Harlow lost it’s track to developers in 1993 and the Council seem to claim that they are looking for alternatives. Given that these are “very popular” sports and that 15 years have already passed I can only assume that the distinction between finding a new track site “sometime” rather than “never” is academic. Heaven help any potential sports stars of Essex. More in the Harlow Velodrome Story ....
New Track Plans for the British Isles
October saw the announcement of plans for a wide range of new sports facilities - including velodrome - for Leicester [British Cycling News - update this link has since been removed from the BC website]; the host city for the World Championships in both 1970 and 1982.
However the press release’s rather surreal drawing of the structure does not help a lot. The drawing has the track raised 1 to 2 m above the track centre but no stand. The blue “waterway” is in fact a very bright “cote d’azur” and the glass fronted stand (complete with BC logo) is for the motor bike speedway track next door. So is the track going to be an open-air velodrome, a training only indoor track or a full-function indoor venue? With only four staff in the region who else will be using the airport style building in the drawing?
Hopefully the planners and architects will arrive at the conclusion that an all-year round, fully covered indoor track with seating for around 3,000 is a viable model for the future; both for the riders and prospective promoters.
If another open-air track like the one demolished at Saffron Lane is planned then our enthusiasm could be short lived.
The UCI’s move of track racing to the winter (in the northern hemisphere) means that viable velodromes have to be fully covered indoor venues. Promoters need to know that racing will go ahead no matter what the weather.
Personal experiences of waiting around in the rain for hours make me sure that the weather can kill off even the most dedicated groups of fans.
[Update 22-Nov-07: BC have confirmed that the new facility will be a 250m outdoor track with tarmac surface. A bit like Saffron Lane but without the 3,000 seats!]
In November Leicester’s plans were topped by the news that Glasgow had won its bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. So Scotland will certainly join the indoor velodrome club not far behind London - who get their new track as part of the 2012 Olympics.
And prospects for an all-Ireland velodrome in Ulster also look good with three sites - Belfast, Newry and Newcastle - being on a shortlist for a new track. A decision is expected by early in 2008 according to the debates in the Northern Ireland Assembly. [Update 12-Dec-07: “Cycling Ulster has expressed grave concern over the future of the proposed new velodrome following news of the Draft Budget Proposals for Northern Ireland.” more..]
Taken together these plans could boost track cycling to new heights. But at least 1 or 2 of the new venues must have the potential to attract enough paying customers to make the promotion of one day meetings (like the Revolution series), multi-day championships and even a few six-days financially attractive. Read Ron Webb’s interview “Wanted: Bums on seats in velodromes” here...