Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 5th, 2009 at 1:54 pm
Remember Steve Brown? He's the independent businessman-turned-advocate who has spent the last two years trying to get a new velodrome built in Portland.
After taking his vision for a velodrome public in December of 2006, Brown admirably worked his idea through the legislature in Salem. He made some major progress, and his "velodrome bill" was even expanded by enthusiastic lawmakers to include facilities throughout the state. It ultimately got stalled in a committee and never became reality, but Brown has not stopped working toward his vision.
I caught up with him at the Get Together event near his home in Multnomah Village on Tuesday night and he shared more about his latest idea.
Brown sees a major opportunity to include a velodrome as part of an effort by Merritt Paulson to build a new baseball stadium for his minor league Portland Beavers team.
"Kids can't play on the baseball field during the day, but they can sure ride on the track."
-- Steve Brown, PDXVelo.org
Brown said he's been in communication with the Portland Beavers organization about including a velodrome "as part of a community outreach program" alongside the potential new site for the Beavers facility (the City is looking at sites including the Lents neighborhood and the Rose Quarter).
As has always been Brown's focus, his velodrome would not just be about competitive, elite racing. "The idea is to create a neighborhood friendly venue," he wrote via email to me yesterday, "where we could have a kids riding program and a place for the community to congregate on days when baseball was not being played. Kids can't play on the baseball field during the day, but they can sure ride on the track," he said.
Brown also sees the velodrome as a place where a local farmers market and other small events could take place, "Instead of a large building that is vacant half the time even when in season."
With $50 million as an estimated cost for the new stadium, Brown thinks $250,000 for a velodrome (that price is for something simple, wooden, and outdoor) would be a sensible addition to the project. He's also not looking for a handout. "We just need a line of credit," he said, "we'd be able to pay it back with operational revenue within 10 years." (Brown added that a more substantial, covered track with an accompanying building would cost $1.5-2.0 million and would turn the velodrome into a year-round facility).
The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) already manages a successful track racing program at the Alpenrose Dairy velodrome in Portland's southwest hills. However, that facility is at the end of its life and it's not a central location that would be able to draw people from throughout the city.
It's not hard to imagine a thriving velodrome near the Rose Quarter where kids from all over the metro area could arrive via MAX, bus, and so on, and then rent a bike for a night of track-riding fun.
Brown's next step is to try and get a meeting with City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who is working on the deal with Beaver's owner Paulson. I've got a phone call into Leonard and I'll keep you posted if there are any developments.
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