Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 5th, 2006 at 10:20 am
Steve Brown is a business development specialist with a penchant for track racing.
He brings his bike on business trips to Los Angeles where he spins around the track at the gleaming ADT Event Center and dreams about having something similar in Portland.
For six years he has raced all over the country and at the local Alpenrose Dairy Velodrome, but Brown says that facility won't last much longer and that now is the time to start planning for a new one.
Brown, OBRA's track manager Mike Murray, and fellow racer Stephen McLaughry are behind a fledgling effort to build a new track racing facility in Portland. Combined with the aging condition of Alpenrose that they say would cost more money to fix that its worth, they're convinced Portland is the perfect city for a new track.
I recently met with Brown at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Brown, who sits on the MAC's bike committee, says the main issue with Alpenrose is that it wasn't designed properly and that its reached the end of its life,
"Alpenrose is goofy track that was built in the '60s by dairy workers in their spare time. Tracks only last about 30 years...it's held together with quick patch cement, duct tape, and paint."
Earlier this year I took part in the annual track clean-up day and saw first-hand how Alpenrose is showing it's age.
But even in its dilapidated condition, Alpenrose hosts several successful track events each year and has a thriving program. So why not just renovate the existing track? McLaughry thinks that would be a lost cause,
of the design firms.]
"Alpenrose is slowly deteriorating, and it has some fundamental design flaws which make permanent repairs prohibitively expensive...I love that track, but it’s not viable in the long term...the idea is to build a new track before the old one is gone, so that we don’t lose continuity in the racing community."
McLaughry says building a new track at Alpenrose hasn’t been completely ruled out, but it’s highly unlikely. He says there's a possibility the dairy could be sold for residential development and that current restrictions on using the land (alcohol sales are prohibited) along with its Southwest Hills location make it far from ideal.
McLaughry, Brown and Murray have been discussing their plans for several years and have just recently made them public. After reading an interview with track building legend Dale Hughes, Brown took his advice to heart and put his name atop a $1,000 pledge list. Now he hopes to add 99 others and move forward with their vision,
"Our goals are low cost, accessibility, and the highest level of community involvement. The pledge list is to begin the process and show those outside the racing and OBRA community that we mean business. If we can raise $100,000 we can almost have a basic track."
At this point, the ad-hoc trio has contacted several velodrome design firms to get cost estimates and they've researched possible locations. They've also asked Mike McMenamin (of McMenamins fame) for advice on re-conditioning old buildings. Brown says, "there's got to be an old industrial building in Northwest Portland that would work for this."
Cost estimates to build the new track vary, but McLaughry cites a new velodrome in Canada that was built in just four months and cost less than $200,000 dollars.
As we walked out of the club Brown stopped to take in the view of PGE Park. He stared at the stadium and I could tell he was imagining a track set in the infield, fans cheering and racers flying around a velodrome,
"We really just want to share bike racing with more of the community, and a track is the perfect way to do that."
I agree. Now, let's go find the money and make this a reality. To get involved with this project, email Steve Brown at sbrown[at]stevebrowncompany[dot]com.
Photo courtesy the ADT Event Center