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Can bikes and baseball go together? Velodrome backer hopes so

Posted by on March 5th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Steve Brown wants a new velodrome in Portland

Steve Brown sees a new opportunity
to build a velodrome in Portland.
(Photos Β© J. Maus)

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.

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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,

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.”

A Friday at the Velodrome-49.jpg

Racers compete at the
Fast Twitch Friday event
held at Alpenrose Dairy.

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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  • Case March 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Jonathan, I don’t remember giving you permission to use my image as part of an attempt to promote awesome ideas for track cyclists in the PDX metro area. Shame on you. πŸ™‚

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  • Paul Tay March 5, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Hey, Tulsa’s building a brand spankin’ new minor-league stadium too! Great idea.

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  • chris March 5, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    As much as I believe that baseball is a major contributor to the dreary, mind-numbing portion of our country’s culture, it’s a great idea to spice it up with a velodrome. I’d definitely go use it.

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  • Andrew March 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    This would be more than a little awesome.

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  • Garrett March 5, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful idea to me!

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  • froot dawg March 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    that photo i think is from the west side invite, and yes we need a velodrome on the east side!! anything team beer can do to help this along let us know!!!

    john howe
    team beer spokesmodel

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  • Zaphod March 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    This sounds *so* lazy but here it is… I love riding on the velodrome but I’ve only made it out to Alpenrose a handful of times. Why? I feel like an idiot driving to ride my bike in circles and it’s a long ride to get there.

    So why not just ride out there? One word: time. With a family and a number of other obligations, I get a few hours here and there to ride. If I have a 3-4 hours to ride, I’d prefer a long road ride or blast through forest park. The velodrome is just out of reach.

    Put that in the Rose Quarter and I’d be there riding and spectating all the time. That’d be SWEET.

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  • SkidMark March 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    There’s Baseball fields at Alpenrose, should be fine.

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  • stevfarns March 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I’ve watched events out at Alpenrose a number of times and am never disappointed. Good times for the whole family. I’d love to see something closer into the city and even on the east side of town. The Rose Quarter campus would be a great venue. Especially with their new development plan in the works.

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  • SkidMark March 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Also, why not an indoor velodrome in a place where it rains half the year? How cool would year-round track racing be?

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  • Case March 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Hate to be the one who says this, but I like to reward myself after a night of racing track by having a beer with my friends and you just can’t do that at Alpenrose. Also, there’s only one race able ‘drome in the States and it’s in LA. Another one may help to inspire top level cyclists of the future. Just a thought.

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  • lothar March 5, 2009 at 7:41 pm


    “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”

    Don’t forget that by the time they build any new facility for baseball or a velodrome, the new max line will be in making it just as accessible in Lents as it would be in the Rose Quarter. Maybe even less congestion in the area. Also it would be a major shot in the arm for a neighborhood that was eviscerated by I-205.

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  • JayS. March 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I’m more interested in a year round velodrome than a new baseball stadium. If they are both seasonal use facilities it will not help whatever neighborhood they go in.

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  • froot dawg March 6, 2009 at 7:27 am

    i say more taxes!!! the velodrome tax!! on tubes and tires. how about $.10-.25 per tube or tire, more people would learn to patch tires thats good and a velodrome would be just a couple flats away! just an idea, oh yeah case is right we would have to be able to have a beer and watch the races. maybe Roots Organic Brewing could set up in there, wouldn’t that be nice!! people my come out just to watch and have a beer!

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  • Coyote March 6, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Alpenrose on a summer evening has a certain charm that you will never get in an indoor air conditioned facility. For that matter, the existing ball park has an urban charm not likely to be replicated by a new park. It is not Wrigley or Fenway, PGE is kinda cool all tucked away like it is.

    Indoor track racing would be a hit in Portland. I am sure it would be wonderful, but you will be trading away something you will ever get back. Be careful what you wish for, newest isn’t aways best.

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  • Fergus March 6, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Wow, everyone seems to be neutral or for it. But Portland is a bike friendly city right. You know this. They know this.

    That is why they are throwing in a wooden velodrome. The money for these deals is huge. Paulson has asked for 85 million of your dollars. Just last week a school teacher friend lost his job, but I digress.

    The rose quarter is a dead zone.
    Adding another rarely used facility (for MLS, MLF, MLB or whatever business model he has)will not help.

    Would people support a casino in the rose quarter if they threw us a velodrome?

    I think Alpenrose is great. And the price is right. $250,000 is nothing to Paulson but it will take some doing for obra to pay that off. Oh, they won’t… How much will it cost me to ride around?

    These businesses that ask for subsidies really get my goat. Major league anything is for suckers. We have been had already. Let’s learn from our mistakes.

    If he is having trouble getting a $250,000 line of credit, it is because the banks have looked at his numbers and they aren’t credible.

    Get out to Alpenrose today!

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  • Luciano March 6, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I admire Steve’s effort this too has been a personal project for me as well, my think slightly more about using whats already here rather than actimg like an NBA franchise who needs a new arena. I still love the memorial coleseum and as much as I love track racing and community slated concerns .But would rather see the return to the gritty days of track racing where local bike messenger risk all in front of beer drenched fans whose wagers would make the perils of the night well worth the risk

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  • cheapmeat March 6, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Move over bike polo, its bicycle-ball time!

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  • kori March 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    dear john howe-

    that was from the 4th of july race that was a fundraiser for zak.

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  • simon gregg August 15, 2012 at 3:33 am


    Just wondering what the surface is made off in the picture -Racers compete at the Fast Twitch Friday event held at Alpenrose Dairy.

    We are in the UK and looking for new outdoor surfaces to use.



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