Following the success of the indoor Los Angeles velodrome, the manager of a township outside Philadelphia has announced plans to build the first modern-era east coast US indoor velodrome on a 14 acre site near Valley Forge National Park, just outside of Philadelphia. Lower Providence Township Manager, Joseph C. Dunbar, revealed plans for a 2,500 seat arena and velodrome today. The building will be designed for multiple uses, and will include expanded seating capacity for up to 4,000 for concerts, sporting events and community activities. Initial plans also call for connecting the velodrome via bike path to the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen bicycle trails.
Dunbar said that a private investment partnership, American Management Group, LLC, is providing financial backing for the project, and is purchasing the site of an abandoned semi-conductor plant. Plans for the site include the 130,000 square foot arena and a 150-room hotel. The project could be completed as soon as 18 months from now.
The new site is less than 100 km from the highly successful Lehigh Valley velodrome, also known as 'T-town'. The close proximity of the new track was met with mixed feelings by the Lehigh Valley velodrome CEO, Erin Hartwell. He told Cyclingnews that he "hopes we can work with [VMG] to promote the sport together, and to co-promote events. If we don't, it will be bad for both venues". Hartwell admitted that "there is definitely something lacking [as far as facilites] on the east coast". Harsh weather makes training during the winter track racing season impossible at most of the east coast tracks, which are exclusively outdoor, so the addition of an indoor track will add a convenient complementary facility.
Making a velodrome economically viable has been a challenge to many communities, and the Lehigh Valley velodrome, with its 31-year history, is "somewhat of an anomoly in the US" said Hartwell, because they've kept the track and their programs going for so long. While other velodromes struggle to run the facilities and programs with volunteers, T-town has a paid staff. But Hartwell was optimistic about the addition of a new track. "I liken it to soccer, which had slow growth at first, because there weren't many facilities. But as the fields became more prevalent, the growth was enormous".
Cycling will be a major focus of the new facility, according to the press release, but they will rely other events to provide a steady source of income. Paul Decker, president of the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, "Our research indicates that there is a universe of some 35,000 events that could potentially be held in the Center. Attracting some of these is a major goal for us, particularly when you consider that attendees spend money in the area and will make a significant contribution to our local economy."
The velodrome will be developed and operated by Velodrome Management Group LLC (VMG) of Norristown. Pennsylvania. VMG is run by David Chauner and Jerry Casale, who double as organizers of the Pro Cycling Tour, which includes the former US Pro championships in Philadelphia, now known as the Philadelphia International Championship. Chauner has a history of developing cycling programs in the area. He and former partner Jack Simes created the program at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, which, since its inception in 1977, has introduced cycling to 14,000 youngsters and has produced 16 Olympic team members including 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, Marty Nothstein.
"In the mid-seventies, we proved that velodrome racing could be presented as entertainment as well as compelling athletic competition," said Chauner, who told how he and Simes, then the US Olympic team coach, attracted international athletes and thousands of paying spectators to watch bicycle racing when the sport was virtually unknown. "In those days, there was no Greg LeMond, no Lance Armstrong and bicycle racing wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen."
Jack Simes and his company, Veloplex Arenas, will be hired to help plan and construct the velodrome, a 250 meter wood track to be designed and built by Peter Junek of Canada. Simes, a three-time Olympian and Olympic Team coach, will also work closely with VMG to create a racing format with unique spectator appeal.
When asked about whether he thinks the new velodrome will come to fruition, Hartwell said, "I get asked about [the viability] of new velodromes all the time, and this one is further along than anyone else in the country. And with Chauners record in the sport, I have no doubt he will make it work".
See also: Cyclingnews recent coverage of track racing