Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Salem velodrome falls through; Track backer sets sights on Portland

Posted by on April 8th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Steve Brown wants a new velodrome in Portland

Steve Brown of the Portland
Velodrome Project hoped to build
a temporary rack at the Oregon
State Fairgrounds in Salem.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Supporters of a new velodrome on the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem suffered a setback last week when State Parks officials said they would not provide funds for the track.

The original proposal was to spend $130,000 to construct a temporary, wood-frame and plywood track to be housed in the Pavillion Building.

Steve Brown — a Portland-based businessman velodrome advocate who has been working on this project since last September — was already deep into the planning stages for events he hoped would begin at the Fair this summer.

Brown had a plan to repay State Parks over a two-year period (through concessions, ticket sales, and sponsorship) and he had partnered up with the Salem Keizer Volcanoes baseball team for advice on how to successfully promote and manage the velodrome’s operation.

Brown, who was notified of the funding decision by State Parks Director Tim Wood, is disappointed. He felt the low-cost proposal had “great appeal”:

“We were almost ready to go. We could have brought the top riders from the U.S. and Canada to the inaugural event…There was great support from top amateur riders. We felt this was a great opportunity and it would have also been a great way to build support for a more permanent facility while at the same time promoting bike racing and riding in the Salem area.”

Oregon State Parks Director
Tim Wood at the Oregon
Bike Summit last Saturday.

While he hoped the deal would come through, Brown understands why Parks could not fund his project. In a note to Brown about the decision, Wood — who was supportive of the project — cited millions of dollars in debt the State Fair has to meet to cover past improvements. Wood made it clear that the State Fair needs to focus on generating new revenue and that “further capital expenditures are not an option at this time”.

Brown says he never intended to focus on Salem as the location for a new velodrome, but that the opportunity was just too good to turn down. Now he plans to reorganize and seek corporate sponsorship for the construction of an indoor velodrome in the Portland area, which he says has “been our goal all along.”

During last year’s legislative session, Brown worked with other bike advocates to try and pass Senate Bill 926 that would have used Oregon State Lottery funds to build three new velodromes in Oregon. That bill gained support from several lawmakers, but ultimately died in committee.


Learn more about Steve Brown’s plans to bring a velodrome to Portland at PDXVelo.org.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Steven J April 8, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    How cool would it be to have a \’Drome
    at the old Oaks Park skate rink?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Joe April 8, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    woo Portland?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Qwendolyn April 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    How cool would it be to have a \’Drome
    at the old Oaks Park skate rink?


    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Qwendolyn April 8, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    8 units of cool.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Anon. April 8, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Not surprising in the least. The state fair as well as the Salem area in general is dying a slow economic death.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Mmann April 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    While I\’m all for a \’drome in Portland, I did want to point out that the \”old\” skate rink at Oaks Park is still in use. For skating.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave April 8, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Metric or imperial cool?

    I don\’t know that Salem in general is dying, but the State Fair definitely hasn\’t quite figured out the 21st century yet. It had an uneasy truce with the 20th as it was.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • john April 8, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I dont\’ think it will be an issue to raise the money. the PDXVELO site, which needs contact infomation and needs to be updated shows 10 + pledges already. I tried to pledge over the last half a year including a direct email, and I am sure many others too. I am willing to bet there already $50k plus already pledged or at least waiting for someone or somewhere to pledge it too! I, and I am sure many others, are happy this is Not tied to a goverment beauracracy. since can probably can be more adaptable and flexible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jeff April 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    What about a reworking of Alpenrose? It\’s a less-than-optimal track geometry anyway and I\’d bet that an option to put a roof over this landmark and make some improvements in facilities would be welcome by all parties, if Alpenrose was interested. As it is, the track is only usable 5 months a year. With a roof and improve geometry, it could be a year round attraction and already has a name to carry it….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave April 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Jeff – My understanding at Alpenrose is that the foundations (literally and figuratively) are in very poor shape. If we want a working velodrome 20 years from now, it needs to be a new facility from the ground-up, and the dairy is just not a viable place for that kind of project.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Russell April 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    How large of a land parcel would it take to accommodate a velodrome? Looking at satellite imagery, it looks like two city blocks might do. Where would one likely be able to fit?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob April 8, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    A velodrome may be best located in a part of the city where the property value isn\’t astronomical. Otherwise, the coliseum might work, though as I remember from an earlier thread, it\’s dimensions wouldn\’t allow for a full length Olympic length velodrome.

    The Oaks Park location, not the skating rink itself, might be better from the property value standpoint, if there were available property.

    Or, since the planned Salem velodrome was going to be housed in a temporary facility, and the Cirque de Soleil, also housed in a temporary facility alongside the Willamette River is now, or soon will be gone, wouldn\’t that location be a possibility?

    The State Fair really needs management help from someone that understands what it can offer Oregon. Especially with the growth in interest on the part of urban residents in areas such as sustainable living, urban agriculture and nature conservation, no other event could do as much as the State Fair to bring people from the rural and urban parts together on common ground.

    That\’s what I see its primary purpose as being. Velodrome racing is great, but does it really fit the State Fair\’s primary purpose well?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SkidMark April 8, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    According to an article in the Oregonian, Cirque paid $300,000 to rent that site for less than 8 weeks. My guess is that even though it is a former Superfund site, it still has a very high property value, most likely because it is on the Waterfront.

    If any city needs a velodrome to be indoors it is Portland. As far as Alpenrose\’s \”geometry\” goes, it is a short track, but most traditional velodromes are that steeply banked, especially wooden velodromes. The banking is part of the challenge, and at high speeds (that I don\’t reach) I think the banking comes in handy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DJ Hurricane April 8, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    The best part about the Oaks Bottom location, of course, is that people could actually ride to the venue. And, even though the skate rink is still in use, those folks have plenty of vacant land, proper zoning, and they are in the business of making money off this kind of venue. That general location has great potential.

    The south waterfront site has a property value far too high to accommodate a velodrome use. The contamination doesn\’t have much effect on property value unless your use requires open grass or direct contact with the soil. So you can make about a billion more dollars building condos than a drome.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob April 8, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Hey, well if Oaks does have land and meets the zoning criteria as you say they do DJ, that sounds like the place. I wonder if Steve Brown has talked to them.

    Sounds like a drome could be a great companion to the skating rink too. Do bike velodromes ever let skaters on them? Seems like that could be fun.

    That\’s a lot of money that the Cirque paid. For a permanent basis, I thought it would be out for a drome because of property value. On a temporary basis, I thought it might work, since that land seems to just sit there doing nothing most of the year. Why not let people enjoy it? Really though, the Oaks location seems much, much better.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John April 8, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    north portland, PIR has land ?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steve Brown April 9, 2008 at 7:36 am

    All sites are under consideration. Will be talking to Oaks Park and PIR over the next couple of months. Land and building are the biggest costs. A temporary \’drome can be put up anywhere on short notice for $150,000. The problem is to find a permanent home and a building. Stay tuned for more announcements soon.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Spencer April 9, 2008 at 7:44 am

    How about the expo center? Lots of indoor space where you could set up the temporary structure. Besides, think if the Rose City Rollers could also use it. Steeper angles means more mayhem.

    It is also off the max making it a more accessible location.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian E April 9, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Can these things be modified for use as an indoor running track? Much like they change from Hockey to Lacrosse at the Rose Garden.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mmann April 9, 2008 at 8:55 am

    PIR – it already has bike racing, people associate the location with racing, it has easy Max access and ok bike access, and lots of land.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Dossett April 9, 2008 at 11:17 am

    My hope is that the proposal for a new indoor track will not undermine support for the existing Alpenrose facility. Alpenrose is a great track that has been tons of fun for decades, it has free access to the public, and it continues to be a great venue for track racing. We will all be sad if we are paying $10 per session to ride indoors in July.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh April 9, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    \”Or, since the planned Salem velodrome was going to be housed in a temporary facility, and the Cirque de Soleil, also housed in a temporary facility alongside the Willamette River is now, or soon will be gone, wouldn\’t that location be a possibility?\”

    all of that property is slated for south waterfront development…the Cirque will be looking for a new home in the future too…

    Recommended Thumb up 1