Gravel - Cycle Oregon

OBRA looks to replace aging concrete at Alpenrose Velodrome

Posted by on March 12th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

After years of patching and repainting, the time has
come to lay new concrete at Alpenrose.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) has launched a fund-raising effort to rebuild a major portion of Alpenrose Velodrome. The 1/6 mile track located on land owned by Alpenrose Dairy in Portland’s southwest hills has become a crucial part of the regional racing scene and has served as a beloved venue since 1962.

However, despite years of patchwork and paint, the track’s concrete surface has reached an advanced state of disrepair that can no longer be fixed with band-aids.

“Along the straightaways is just terrible,” OBRA’s Mike Murray shared with me today. “Riding around that thing is bumpier than riding on a regular road… If you put a speedometer on your track bike you can’t even read the thing.”

Murray, who has managed OBRA’s track program for as long as anyone can remember, has led teams of volunteers twice a year to repair, repaint, and patch the track surface. After an off-season power-washing job, it became clear that another round of band-aid wouldn’t be enough. After the power-wash blasted away years of paint and concrete patch material, “It was obvious that substantial work needed to be done to keep the velodrome running,” wrote Murray in a recent email to OBRA members.

A Friday at the Velodrome-49.jpg

The plan is to replace the straightaways and the apron (the darker portion on the right).

The last time the track underwent a major renovation was 1998 when about half the track was rebuilt. This time around Murray says he plans to replace both straightaways and the apron (the portion between the track’s infield and the main track).

Alpenrose Dairy owns the velodrome and they agree the work needs to be done. Officials from the dairy are meeting with Murray and a construction company this week to discuss the project. At this time, estimates for the cost to replace about 1/3 of the track’s concrete surface is around $100,000. For that investment, Murray says Alpenrose will be “almost like new” and it will keep running strong for the next 20-30 years or more.

Alpenrose track clean-up day

Mike Murray, shown here
patching the track
surface in 2006, knows the
crumbling concrete all too well.

In order for the project to happen, Murray says the community must step up and show its willingness to donate. The folks at Alpenrose Dairy not only own the velodrome and offer its use at no charge to OBRA, they also allow the racing organization to store vehicles and equipment on the site. So far, enthusiasm in the OBRA community has been strong.

Track fan Brian Ratliff wrote via email, “Imagine, no more having your rear wheel kick 6″ sideways coming out of turn two in the sprinters lane!” And Steve Brown, the man who has worked to build a new velodrome closer to downtown Portland, said he has already written a $1,000 check. “I am issuing a challenge to all racers,” wrote Brown, “to join me in the Kilo Club.”

If all goes according to plan, demolition of the track will start in the next few weeks and the entire project will be done by May. “I don’t want to lose any racing season,” says Murray.

If you would like to help with this exciting project, tax deductible donations can be made online or via snail mail to:

    Portland Velodrome Committee
    4318 SE 8th Ct.
    Gresham, OR 97080

You can also contact Mike Murray via email at mike [dot] murray [at] obra [dot] org.

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  • todd boulanger March 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    How about reusing the old Memorial Coliseum as an indoor velodrome in the city that Bikes? 😉

    [I know the politics are pretty deep on recycling that structure.]

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  • wsbob March 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    “How about reusing the old Memorial Coliseum as an indoor velodrome in the city that Bikes?…” todd boulanger

    Do a search of bikeportland’s archives. In past, that idea has been discussed here and elsewhere. I believe a couple of the issues were that the use was too specialized, and that the interior space of the MC was too small for the size of track that would justify the modification.

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  • Champs March 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Good to hear it’s being rehabbed, but today’s cold, wet, and windy weather is a perfect example of what’s bad for the track and riding on it.

    Dreams of Memorial Coliseum aside, are there no empty big box stores that you could shoehorn an indoor wooden track into? Surely somewhere on Hayden Island… besides being fairly central, it’s got parking, accommodation for events, and being in the general area of PIR and Portland Meadows just seems to fit.

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  • Champs March 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    On further review, maybe the buildings I have in mind are smaller than I think. But surely there’s some kind of unloved retail/industrial space with enough open floor space for the footprint of a track.

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  • PDXFixed March 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Dumping $100k into that aging track isn’t the right answer. Portland needs a proper indoor track. That $100k could be much better put to use towards and indoor facility.

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    • Chris I March 13, 2012 at 6:33 am

      $100k is peanuts. You wouldn’t be able to look at a space big enough in the city for that much. They probably spend $100k every month maintaining the Coliseum.

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  • A.K. March 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    I wonder if a local concrete company (Ross Island or Knife River?) could be persuaded to donate materials or time to help offset the cost, and get free advertising in return?

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  • Mike Murray March 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    An indoor track is a great idea and Portland would be a good place to put one. Don’t think that I and others have not thought of this. We have been looking for a space for years. The catch is $100,000 would barely be the down payment for such a facility. The very minimum space needed is 30,000 sq. feet of unobstructed space, which would house a tiny track that only a few could ride. There are actually very few buildings that big anywhere. Then you need to add in the cost to run it. I have been told that there are no indoor velodromes in the entire world that cover their costs of operation much less carrying costs for the property without continuing input of money not generated by the operation.

    We are lucky to have the facility that we have at Alpenrose. Putting in the relatively small cost to rehab the current track is a good use of money. There is not going to be an indoor track appearing suddenly that we could put this money towards. It is also not such a bad deal to have it be only seasonal since that makes it a whole lot easier to operate with volunteers. Covering 12 months of operation would be a bit more challenging. Personally I am not ready to trade my regular job for that.

    As for donations of materials or other aspects needed for the demolition and construction we are open to options. If anyone has contacts they should send them to me.

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    • wsbob March 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      How much money for an open sided canopy for the Alpenrose Velodrome? Most likely very expensive, but such an arrangement still allowing track racing to take place somewhat outdoors is appealing.

      If Portland really wanted a top flight indoor velodrome, it could look into Keirin racing. I’m not personally enthusiastic about gambling, but Oregon seems to not be totally opposed to it.

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  • Scott March 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Ladies and gentleman, in the feature picture of this article you find The Great Eric Young and The Red Devil himself Matt Case. This picture alone is proof enough that we should fund the repair by demolishing the current track and selling chunks of it at high-end department stores ala the Berlin Wall.

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  • toddistic March 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Behind both of them (but not for long) is the George “the wildman” Carder…

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  • john March 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    A pole barn would be nice 🙂 of course there are always tradeoffs…

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  • Lance P. March 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I would be happy to donate to a place closer to Portland, or at a minimum not in the SW hills. I love the sport but over an hour bike ride from town is a little too much for me. Best of luck though.

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    • Scott March 14, 2012 at 9:52 am


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    • Case March 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      If you time it right it could be your warm up.

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  • davemess March 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I’m curious as to the need to paint the track (I know the lines need to be painted). Most other outdoor tracks I’ve been to have not had painted concrete. Is it a weather sealing issue?

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  • poser March 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Mike, does Portland Velodrome Committee have a PayPal account, or any other way to contribute online?

    You’ll get a gang more donations from these slackers if they don’t have to write a check and stuff an envelope (and when I say these slackers, I may or may not be including myself).

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  • Bob Sterry March 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Indoor ‘dromes do cost money to run and maintain, but if there is one city in the US where this could happen it has to be here in PDX. Bike culture is deep and not impoverished. It might be anathema to some but gambling is what keeps North EUR tracks open. Is there no native American tribe waiting for a downtown opportunity? The City gives a plot to the tribe under the conditions that it has to be developed into a Velodrome. Get a manager from EUR or Australia to run the project, and stand back. But please oh please make sure it is Olympic dimensions!! The coliseum site is excellent, but the building is not going to cut it. Maybe when it is pulled down the City could make some cash selling pieces of it to those sensitive architects who perceive it as a treasure worth preserving. Sorry, not so. We just need to be creative in our thinking.

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  • Mike Murray March 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    You can donate on line at

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