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Racer pledges effort, cash for new velodrome

Posted by on November 10th, 2006 at 10:04 pm

“I am going to do my best to get this started and push it as far as I can.”
–Racer Steve Brown

Steve Brown — the local developer* whose vision for an indoor track racing facility in Portland is making the rounds in the cycling community — has put his money where his mouth is.

In an email he just sent to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) mailing list, he has announced intentions to move forward with the velodrome idea and has asked the community for support.

Brown writes,

“I truly believe that if we pull together as a community, we can find the resources and energy to add a resource to velodrome racing…the first thing to do is to put my name at the top of a list of people who will pledge $1000. All I need now is 99 more names to get this thing started.”

I’ve got an interview with Brown lined up for Monday and I hope to bring you more details about his efforts. Stay tuned!

[*Correction: Steve Brown is not a land and building developer. His company specializes in business development. Sorry for any confusion.]

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  • Andre November 10, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    Wow, ponying up all of 1000 dollars, next thing we know he’s gonna break his piggy bank open for this. This clearly is at this point nothing more than a “vapor drome” and a lot needs to be done to even get it to a realistic planning phase from the sounds of it. Going through public email lists to get your investors lined up doesn’t seem like this is the most well connected project.

    I think this is a great idea, but it’s just that an idea.

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  • Ethan November 11, 2006 at 8:24 am

    Ben Kingsley’s got a great piece of property for a Velodrome, right on the Willamette! Easy bike access too.

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  • SKiDmark November 11, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Could clean up the Superfund site and build it there.

    Something tells me if he ponied up a big chunk of the $$$$$$$ people would complain that he had a “controlling interest”.

    Let’s remember that Track Cycling is an Olympic sport and wouldn’t it be great if Portland was thought of as a place that Olympic-level cycling took place. The Vancouver B.C. Velodrome has a Volleyball court in the middle and at first I though that was an odd combination, but I remember that Volleyball is and Olympic sport. SOme sort of mixed-use (but not Baseball, Basketball, Footballor Futbol) indoor facility would be great and is needed in a place where it rains half the year.

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  • ringer November 12, 2006 at 7:21 am

    Bike polo? Put my name on the $10 list, only 99 more to go….

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  • clinton rider November 13, 2006 at 9:07 am

    What happened to the proposal by Doug Obletz et al to re-make the Coliseum as a recreational sports center? The cycling track/volleyball idea is great!

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  • Doug November 13, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    While I truly like the idea of an indoor velodrome, I have to ask what the cost to riders would be. If the Alpenrose velodrome were covered, would the cost of maintaining the facility mean that a fee would have to be imposed to ride there? Would racing fees increase? I’ve been to the new velodrome in Los Angeles and while its a state of the art facility, its also very expensive to ride and train there. Much of that is no doubt due to it’s being a board track, but the cost has to be amortized somehow.

    All in all, it would be nice to have a year ’round track, and I’m glad that someone has a vision to move forward, still I’m concerned that a more complex and expensive facility will simply keep some people from being able to ride.

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  • McLaughry November 13, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Mixed-use facilities are a great idea, except:

    * In Vancouver, the track is now OWNED by the volleyball assoc because the cyclists couldn’t afford their share of the mortgage. So track use is scheduled around the volleyball schedule (i.e. no riding on the weekends).

    * In Victoria, there has just been a proposal to rip out the track in order to expand the soccer field that’s in the middle. (More soccer players than bike racers.)

    * In Dublin (Ireland), there’s a running track in the infield, so velodrome access is restricted to times when nobody wants to run.

    * In Los Angeles, the brand-new $15 million velodrome is giving up space in the infield to basketball courts. First it was one court, now they’re putting up a second court. Eventually somebody will notice that you could put a lot of bleachers where the track is, and you could have a real basketball stadium.

    * The track in Colorado Springs is owned by the US OTC, so the cyclists have to share time with roller-bladers/speedskaters.

    The conclusion is that if we want to enhance the local cycling scene, we need a facility that is owned/controlled by cyclists, with any other sports only as tenants. In order for that to work, we have to have minimal maintenance/operating costs. So while it sounds like great fun to put a velodrome in the Coliseum or build some world-class 250m board track with seats for 1500 people, it will never happen, and if it does, it won’t last.

    What we need is something small, simple, and cheap; essentially an indoor version of Alpenrose. (And no, before you ask, we can’t put a roof over Alpenrose.)

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  • McLaughry November 13, 2006 at 12:50 pm


    Sorry, I didn’t read your message before I posted. You’ve got it exactly right. The thing that makes Portland racing unique is its inclusiveness. Any indoor facility will have associated fees that are higher than racing/riding at Alpenrose. Our goal is to minimize these fees, and maximize participation.


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  • Dave November 13, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Since you bring it up, why can’t we put a roof over Alpenrose? Is it just that there are too many other problems out there, or is there some specific problem with a roof at the dairy?

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  • SKiDmark November 13, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    I think it would be fairly easy to keep it all bike by having a BMX/mountain bike park in the infield. You know, some quarter-pipes and some jumps.

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  • Dabby November 13, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Alpenrose is not worth putting a roof over, even if it could be done.
    Whilewe are lucky to have it, and it is fun to ride, it is not even close to a nice enough track to spend the finances on a roof. It is lumpy, and it is concrete, certainly not the preferred surface.
    Perhaps working with Alpenrose on financing a newer, better velodrome on their property, with strictly in town, private funds, is the way to go?

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  • McLaughry November 13, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Mostly because of zoning restrictions, but also because, as Dabby says, it wouldn’t be worth it. The track is disintegrating, and our annual patch-and-paint effort is not enough to stay ahead of the decay. Eventually the track will be unrideable.

    As for building a new track at Alpenrose, that hasn’t been completely ruled out, but it’s unlikely. It’s hard to guarantee that the dairy won’t be sold for residential development in the next few years, and there are some other restrictions that go along with using their land (no alcohol sales, for example). It’s also not the most accessible location. So the new one will probably be elsewhere.

    p.s. SKiDmark, it’s true that a very small BMX park might fit in the infield, but consider the logistics: you can’t have anything that blocks the view across the middle of the infield, so it would have to consist of some pretty small features. Also, the infield of a 200m track is actually a pretty small space, much of which is needed for racers to set up their stuff.

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  • SKiDmark November 13, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    It wouldn’t be that hard to make them mobile, or collapsable. Basically what I am getting at is that it would not be hard to make it multi-use but all bike oriented. I know a lot of competitive cyclists weight train, so maybe a gym for the cyclists could help generate revenue thru membership. I am trying to be optomistic and think big. It may be all daydreaming now, but maybe some of the ideas will stick.

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  • bjorn November 13, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    I know that this is an example of the high end of velodromes, but just as a little bit of a reality check in terms of the cost of construction this place puts it at 1.5 million for a “training package” clear on up to close to 4 million for the premium stadium. This isn’t the kind of thing that we are going to be able to build or maintain by small donations.



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  • McLaughry November 13, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    Interesting link. On the other hand, I’m sure you’ve seen this:


    If you read the final paragraphs, you’ll find the origin of the $1000 pledge idea.

    Also, no doubt you’re aware of this new velodrome:

    which was built for (I believe) less than $200k and now has one of the most active racing programs on the continent.

    There are ways of building velodromes that cost absurd amounts of money, and produce beautiful facilities with crap racing. There are also ways of building cheap tracks that can be maintained by a solid racing community. Given that we already have one of the best communities in the country, there’s no reason we can’t achieve the latter.


    p.s. I don’t believe that there has been any suggestion that we would rely solely on ‘small donations’. On the other hand, going to a corporate sponsor with a list of people who are financially committed to the project is much more likely to spark the interest of the people with the big money.

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  • Cate November 13, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    McLaughry said “It’s hard to guarantee that the dairy won’t be sold for residential development in the next few years…”

    Wow, if Alpenrose is considering selling to developers, it’s contrary to what I’ve heard about their intentions for that land. Of course financially it makes perfect sense (their land is worth millions), but I thought they wanted to keep that land for recreational use by families, now and in the future.

    My selfish motives for keeping the velodrome at Alpenrose is it’s one of the few things that draws bicyclists to SW Portland – even if it’s “not the most accessible location”!

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  • McLaughry November 13, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    I’m not saying that they are considering it, I have no information about that. I’m simply making the point that we can’t rule out the possibility, and as you say, the property is worth millions.

    A better way of putting it might be this: Alpenrose has given us bike racing for 40 years. If we’re going to build another velodrome, we should expect it to last another 40 years, and Alpenrose is probably the wrong place to make that kind of long-term plan.


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  • Cate November 13, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    “Alpenrose is probably the wrong place to make that kind of long-term plan.” Even if Alpenrose were willing to commit for another 40 years and gave you the land to use for free?

    Alpenrose has been so supportive of bicycling (velodrome and cyclocross) that it seems like there might be some good reasons, financially and otherwise, for staying there (even if you can’t have alcohol).

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  • Dabby November 13, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    I agree with the thought that Alpenrose might not last, for that real estate is worth some serious dough, one day the temptation will be too much.
    But, in all reality, most spaces in this town where a velodrome could be put are long held properties, that would certainly have to be leased to use the space anyway, wouldn’t you think?
    Buying a property on top of building a velodrome would add so much more money to the overall project, rendering it more unfeasible…

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  • Carl November 14, 2006 at 11:56 am

    “Buying a property on top of building a velodrome…”

    When this phrase hit my architecture school-adled brain, I thought you were suggesting “buying the top of a building to build a velodrome…”


    I’d love to see a Velodrome on the rooftops of a section of single story, low density, urban Portland. It’s only money.

    If this strikes any of you as a good idea, it was mine. If not, it was Dabby’s…even if he didn’t realize it.

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  • […] 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.” […]

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