Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 7th, 2009 at 11:09 am
For nearly three years now, local track racer and business consultant Steve Brown has been working to find a home for a new velodrome in Portland. He’s appealed to the community for support, founded a non-profit, worked the legislature in Salem, tried to get one at the State Fairgrounds, and even tried to piggy-back on the ill-fated attempt to raze the Memorial Coliseum to make a new home for Portland’s minor league baseball team.
Now, Brown is eyeing another opportunity: he’s pinning hopes on an idea to build a velodrome inside Memorial Coliseum.
The City of Portland is about to embark on a project to redevelop the entire Rose Quarter. Amy Ruiz, the planning and sustainability policy advisor for Mayor Sam Adams says they want it to be a “vibrant, mixed-use area” and that the Coliseum is “a critical component of the overall redevelopment.”
The City owns the Coliseum, but the Portland Trail Blazers hold first right of proposal for any changes that might occur. According to Mayor Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller, the Blazers (and the Portland Development Commission) flew he and other City officials to Kansas City to see first-hand what their idea of an “entertainment complex” might look like.
“Portlanders would embrace track racing…and, if designed and built in concert with other things, it [the velodrome] could be a real attraction.”
— Tom Miller, Chief of Staff for Mayor Adams
That idea was panned in the local media as not fitting the Portland vibe and Miller said he and the PDC had concerns. He told me that, “Should the entertainment complex notion move forward, the only way it can succeed is if it has a distinctly Portland feel.”
How could the redevelopment have more of a Portland feel?
Miller realizes that the old track at Alpenrose Dairy is on its last legs and that, “Obviously track racking has a lot of support in this community.” Miller feels that putting a velodrome in the Coliseum or anywhere in the Rose Quarter, “would make this ‘entertainment complex’ more Portland-esque.”
“Portlanders would embrace track racing,” he said, “and, if designed and built in concert with other things, it [the velodrome] could be a real attraction.”
Miller and Brown have already met to discuss the idea. Miller says putting a track inside the Coliseum is “the most provocative and ambitious idea of all,” but at this point it’s, “just an idea.”
Brown likes the idea so much he had his friend, fellow racer and architect Jeff Mitchem, draw up what it might look like. After walking the site, Brown and Mitchem realized they could remove the upper bowl of seating and place the track around the Coliseum’s upper level. Brown feels that this would “provide a stunning visual use of the building,” and save it from demolition. In addition, with the track on the upper level, the floor space could still be used for other sports.
For Brown, the Coliseum would be a perfect location for the velodrome:
“When you think of it as being on Interstate Avenue, close to the Eastbank Esplanade, Light Rail, downtown, the Convention Center and the proposed Sullivan’s Gulch trail which would lead to the Gateway Green project, it really ties the bike theme together for the city. Having a covered public access facility to ride, train and race as the hub of cycling is a visionary item no American city will be able to match.”
Brown says he would make the velodrome a not-for-profit venture with fees and sponsorship all going back into programs. His dream is to build on the success of Alpenrose and expand it with year-round public access, a youth program, and more.
From talking about this idea with Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller and with Amy Ruiz (who’s heading up the public process for the site redevelopment), they say they’re open to anything at this point. “May the best idea win,” said Miller. And Ruiz added that, “Mayor Adams is interested in hearing every idea for the building’s financially sustainable future use.”
As for the Blazers, I haven’t heard from their planning staff, but I do know that when I met with their outreach folks a few weeks ago, they said they were very eager to partner with and support bicycling any way they could.
Stay tuned for details on the Rose Quarter redevelopment public outreach process.