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October 15/11 12:21 pm - Hamilton Velodrome - Gone with a Whimper UPDATED


Posted by Editor on 10/15/11
 

Note:  We received additional information subsequent to publishing this article, which has been added.

 

Quietly, with almost no fanfare, Canada's best hope for a permanent indoor velodrome died at a Hamilton Council meeting last Tuesday, when councillors voted against increasing the city's share of costs involved in building the velodrome from the original $5 million. Less than one hour later, TO2015, the Pan/ParaPanAm organizing committee, released a statement that it would be looking for alternative sites. The statement from TO2015 reads:

The Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) acknowledges Hamilton City Council's decision to cap their contribution at $5 million towards the building of a four-season velodrome at Mohawk College.

However,this contribution, while generous, does not represent a sufficient financial commitment to go forward with the plans to build this velodrome in Hamilton.

TO2015 would like to thank the City of Hamilton for their hard work in developing a strong four-season velodrome proposal and the due diligence of their committees to evaluate this proposal.

As a result of Council's decision, TO2015 will pursue discussions with other municipalities who have expressed interest in this significant legacy facility.

This high-calibre facility remains a vital component to the Pan/Parapan Am Games legacy. The velodrome will attract future elite, and amateur national and international competitions, allow Ontario-based athletes to train in their home province and give the surrounding community access to a world-class facility.

TO2015 is looking forward to working closely with its community partners to help ensure a velodrome is delivered on time, on budget and on scope.


The 2015 Pan Am Games velodrome facility has seen its estimated cost soar from an original $11.5 million budget to around $40 million. The original proposal was clearly underfunded for a permanent facility, which was a requirement that Own the Podium (OTP) and the Canadian Cycling Association (CCA) demanded; rightly so, given the past history of organizers putting together temporary facilities and then selling them off (1999 Pan Ams) or letting them fall into disrepair (Winnipeg and Victoria). However, rather than working on plans to bridge the funding gap, Hamilton spent months arguing over the stadium, which was the only real interest those in power had through the whole process. Editor's Note: It was pointed out by a reader that the Victoria velodrome continues to operate, however, the venue has struggled in recent years, and came close to closing after it was allowed to deteriorate. See Victoria Velodrome Reopens, Velodrome: Caught in the crossfire.

Hamilton as a location for a velodrome was both the right choice and the wrong one. Right because it had successfully hosted the 2003 Road Worlds, and has a long tradition of both cycling excellence and superb places to ride. Wrong because Hamilton had no real interest in a velodrome - all the Mayor and other factions wanted was a new stadium for their Tiger Cats football team (and that in a controversial site); and putting together a package of venues that included the velodrome increased the likelihood of getting federal and provincial funding (that would otherwise be unavailable) to build this stadium. The budget for the stadium has soared as high as $125 million - enough for three world-class velodromes.

Cynically, this faction figured that they could put up with two weeks of international competition to get a stadium that is used a dozen times a year for a sport that has no Olympic or international relevance. We know this is true because Hamilton originally submitted a bid for the 2010 Commonwealth Games that did not include track cycling at all. They only backtracked when we published an article that was picked up internationally, and a number of Commonwealth federations stated they would not vote for a bid that did not include track cycling.

A Hamilton Spectator article after the vote included the quote: Councillor Brad Clark pointed out that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats - not the city or its amateur athletes - are the main victors of Hamilton's Pan Am debates: "The Tiger-Cats, the professional sports team, was the one group that got everything they wanted. That's a little bit difficult to take." (See the full article Here)

TO2015 says that they are looking for proposals from other communities interested in hosting the velodrome, but the time frame is exceedingly short - the end of November. This is an organization that has fallen down on the job. They have not pushed hard for a velodrome; instead of getting behind it with funding guarantees or, at the very least, a clear indication that a velodrome is a top priority, they have made vague statements in support, or issued threats to Hamilton Council.

Unlike every other facility being built for the Pan/ParaPanAm Games - the stadiums, tracks, pools, etc. - the velodrome would be a unique structure in North America: the only Olympic-level facility on the continent for a sport that offers ten medal events, equally divided between men and women. This alone ensures that the velodrome would become the training centre of choice for Canadian and U.S. squads, as well as an almost permanent fixture on the World Cup circuit.

In addition, the velodrome facility envisioned would offer multi-sport support to Olympic sports in Track and Field, Volleyball, Badminton and others. It would also fit well with stated healthy lifestyle goals, with proposed introductory programs for youth, to get them riding bikes in a safe and controlled environment.

I have no doubt that something will be cobbled together in time for the 2015 Games - the successful bid included track cycling, after all. However, at this point it is looking more and more likely that we could end up with the type of temporary structure that was not supposed to happen this time. There are indications that Milton, Mississauga or Markham could step into the breech, and even a suggestion of London - where the Forest City Velodrome program operates successfully.

What needs to be done now is increase pressure on TO2015 to ensure that they stick to the permanent legacy facility promise. They have a $2.5 Billion budget for the Pan Am Games; it's not too much to ask that a fraction of that goes towards a cycling track.

 

Addendum

 

Subsequent to posting this article I heard from Greg Mathieu, the Director-General of the Canadian Cycling Association.  Mathieu has been heavily involved in the process of working towards a four-season legacy velodrome and, while he admits to being "very disappointed" that Hamilton pulled out of hosting the velodrome, he is more optimistic that cycling will still get a permanent facility.

Mathieu says that the process undertaken has resulted in more complete architectural plans, making the project ready to be implemented quickly once a site has been selected.  He also says that TO2015 has increased their commitment to approximately $25 million, meaning that any community that does host the velodrome will have costs in the $10-$15 million range towards building the facility, obtaining land, providing services to the land, etc.

One other strong point favouring the velodrome is that it is one of only three capital projects that has been designated as a legacy facility, meaning that it will have ongoing access for the life of the building (which could be 40 years or more) to operational funding from the $70 million legacy fund that is being established by the provincial and federal governments.  This is an enormous benefit to a community, since there is a guaranteed income stream to continue operating the velodrome after the Games.

Time to start lobbying your local council and media!

 

If you wish to contact TO2015, the CEO is Ian Troop, and they can be reached at:

Telephone: 1 (416) 957-2015

Fax: 1 (416) 957-3999

E-mail: info@toronto2015.org

 


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