Tour de Lab September 1st

Steve Brown has visions of a new velodrome

Posted by on December 5th, 2006 at 10:20 am

Steve Brown wants a new velodrome in Portland

[Steve Brown]

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.

Alpenrose track clean-up day

[The surface at Alpenrose is on its death bed.]

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,

[A rendering from one
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.”

[If an existing building can’t be found, this is one possible alternative.]

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.

[Envision something like this in downtown Portland!]
Photo courtesy the ADT Event Center
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    john December 5, 2006 at 11:30 am

    i’ll pledge. where’s the sign up sheet ?

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    Brooke Hoyer December 5, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    I think bringing a new track to Portland would be great. How about thinking even bigger? Why not build racing development center that includes a track, crit course, and cyclcross venue? Maybe have some facility space for coaches. A multi-use facility billed as a training center might bring in more corporate $$ as well.

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    Dan December 5, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    what john said.

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    Ryan December 5, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    Sounds like a great project to put in Memorial Coliseum.

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    Cheesus Christ December 5, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    By the way, this is a horrible project for the Memorial C.
    The Winter hawks still play many many games there, along with other activity’s.
    Any velodrome would need to be collapsible to be in that space, which is exactly what we don’t need.

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    Cheesus Christ December 5, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    With big dreams,
    Come big reams…..

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    nuovorecord December 6, 2006 at 8:34 am

    Most nights, the MC sits empty and dark. It’s rare when both venues are being used at the same time. I think Ryan’s idea has some merit. The Hawks can play in the Rose Garden, as they have in past years.

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    Jonathan Maus December 6, 2006 at 8:41 am

    The Coliseum is not a good idea. Read this comment from Stephen McLaughry from my previous post for more information.

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    McLaughry December 6, 2006 at 11:33 am

    We’re working on setting up a website where you can make a pledge on-line. At the moment, if you want to pledge, send me an email ( and I’ll give you Steve Brown’s contact info.

    -stephen mclaughry

    p.s. No, we’re not collecting money right now. Just pledges. And the money will eventually go through the Portland Velodrome Committe (PVC) and OBRA, so it *should* be tax deductible.

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    Adam-8 December 7, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    I honestly have very mixed feelings about this project. Although I took my first trip to alpenrose this fall and thought it was amazing, the strings attached to this project put me a little on edge.

    First, what exactly does Mr. McLaughry mean when he says that Alpenrose was “poorly designed”?
    Alpenrose is one of the steepest tracks in North America, with folks coming from all over the west coast and canada to race on it. If new and “better” design means removing the crazy angles, tight turns, and short straights that currently characterize Portland track racing, I feel like that’s selling out just a little bit.

    Secondly, if this velodrome is to be indoors, climate controlled and, I’m assuming, with amenities like bathrooms, seating and vending(?), then exactly how much is it going to cost to go watch or participate in a race? or more importantly, just go ride laps on an off day? Because right now we have a free, community supported velodrome, and if we undermine that to create something that we have to pay for, that’s lame.

    Yeah, Alpenrose is a strange track, located in the middle of nowhere, kinda decrepit and definitely smelly at times, but it’s our track, it’s free, and I don’t want to see money change the nature of the community that we’ve established.

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    McLaughry December 8, 2006 at 4:11 pm


    Thanks for your concerns. If you read all of my comments, you’ll see that those issues are at the very top of my list, as well. As the fastest Portland rider in the history of the track, I think I can safely say that my love for the quirks of the racing surface is at least as great as yours. (By the way, Alpenrose actually has long straights, that’s why it looks like a cigar when viewed from above.)

    However, it is quite possible to have a quirky track with strange angles (and even some funny smells, if you want) that’s made of wood, under a roof. (Just ask anybody who’s been up to Burnaby.) We won’t have to scrape and paint it every year. Steve Garcia and Mike Murray won’t have to spend countless hours patching the cement, only to see some dumbass ride his bike through the wet patches. We might have to heat it (probably not), and we might have to illuminate it, but we can (and will) minimize the costs to riders, while maximizing the weirdness and fun.

    Don’t worry about money changing the nature of the track community. There is no money in track racing and there never will be. We just do it for the fun.


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    joel December 9, 2006 at 8:11 am

    “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”

    he was seeing the ghosts of aug 7-13, 1931 – when the only 6-day race ever held in portland (not to slag the 6-days held at alpenrose, but its not quite the same…) was held there, back when it was the multnomah civic auditorium.

    while alpenrose has its charms (free, steep, etc), im sure a lot of people who ride it would really appreciate an indoor, all-weather, board track. surface-wise, it just cant compare. maybe a downtown track will have a different character, but at least people will know where it is – and track racing needs all the new velodromes it can get if its going to grow and flourish – with all the kids hopping on fixies these days, we need to get them on the track. besides, track racing is traditionally a winter sport – and lord knows you cant ride alpenrose on a day like today…

    though stephen – you shouldnt discount the possibility of there being money in track racing! there certainly *used* to be, in this country and elsewhere, when 6-days really flourished… and there certainly is in japan!

    but as to mixed-use – avoid it if at all possible! excepting other bike-related usage, of course… or at least, if it must happen, everything not cycling must play second fiddle. theres enough dromes in this country forced to squeeze in between the other activities theyre forced to share their time and space with – we need more dedicated ones.

    and heck, a track could even be made smaller – portland could have its own “t’Kuipke”!

    i know im going to start looking at warehouses around town a little differently…


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    Todd Boulanger December 11, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    How about a combined facility in the Lloyd…near the convention center?

    Such a velodrome could combine a bikestation & retail shop, CCC bike mechanics school, BTA office, bike business incubator, and brew pub.

    Perhaps the naming rights could be sold to the McMenamin brothers or Fat Tire or some other white knight with deep pockets or a black knight in need of green PR (BP, HP, etc.). It might help with Portland’s efforts at attracting bike related conventions (ala Interbike).

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    kirk whiteman December 15, 2006 at 10:24 am

    Kirk Whiteman

    I’ve been racing on the track internationally for over 20 years. and have won national and world championships in that time. We recently moved here from Plano Texas where I trained and coached a youth program at The Superdrome. Coming here to Portland, I am glad to see that there is a strong desire for an indoor velodrome, and when you look at it; think of the things that it could do for our community. Cycling is not only a sport; it’s a lesson in life . An indoor track would provide more than a seasonal passion but a place where thousands of kids can flourish into world class citizens, not to mention Olympians.
    I do have to say that I was a member of B.R.A.G.(bicycle racing at gateway) and we hired a Oregon architect Gary Moye, to design a world class facility for the 2012 Olympics. It was an environmentally friendly and efficient that provided many different options of use. Check it out;
    If Portland could have a venue like this “sky’s the limit” as to how much we can grow as a community. The late Al Toefield always said, “kids in sports keep kids out of courts”. I truly believe that!
    Don’t wait. It’s a great idea for a great cause and all will benefit; you know what I mean…….

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    Steve Brown December 16, 2006 at 2:21 am

    Kirk, Your understanding of the benefits of this type of facility is what we are looking for in seeking an improved facility. Please contact me directly. All the great things that have started at Alpenrose can be taken to a higher level by your ideas and help.

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