Editor’s note: This story incorrectly stated Jay Zuckerman provided operating funds for the project. In reality it was the Zuckerman Family Foundation.
With help from Pima County officials, a small group of key figures in the cycling community is moving forward with plans to build a velodrome in Tucson.
Jamie Carney, a professional track racer who is working the group, said the velodrome is an important piece of making Tucson a cycling destination.
“The velodrome is the only missing component to make us the best place you can be in the United States for cycling,” Carney said.
The group, which is headed by Richard DeBernardis — the president of Perimeter Bicycling Association of America, has identified four potential locations, secured $2 million in funding for operating the track once it is built and is working with the Pima County bond committee to include construction funding in the county’s next bond election.
DeBernardis said they are looking for $5 million to build the track, which they are calling the Arizona Bicycling Center. He said the center will have a strong educational component as well as velodrome racing.
Nicole Fyffe, an assistant to the county administrator, said the bond committee will decide at its October bond meeting whether to include the whole $5 million in the bond election or provide the group with $3.5 million and have them secure the additional $1.5 million elsewhere.
According to DeBernardis, the major road block is whether the bond committee will put the bond package up for a vote in 2011. The 2010 bond was delayed because of the poor economy.
Carney said he didn’t think the bond would go for a vote in 2011 and said they would start looking at securing more money from private individuals.
DeBernardis said they want to move fast because if another city starts building one, Tucson will lose out. He said there was only enough demand for one velodrome in Arizona.
The velodrome committee received a $2 million commitment from the Zuckerman Family Foundation, to fund the operation of the track for 10 years after it is built.
According to Pima County bicycle and pedestrian program manager Matt Zoll, who also works on the velodrome group, the committee is currently considering several locations.
Zoll said they are looking at locations on the west side of Ina and I-10, the east side of I-10 at Valencia and the dirt parking lot outside Tucson Electric Park. He said they also considered a piece of land near the base of A Mountain, but said it would take several years to prepare the land. Check out the map. The story continues below.
View Potential velodrome locations in a larger map
Two years ago, the plan was to locate the velodrome at Udall park, but Zoll said homeowner complaints prompted the group to focus their efforts elsewhere. They also wanted something close to the interstate to make it easier for people from out of town to get to the velodrome.
Don Melhado, Tucson’s USA Cycling race official and velodrome committee member, said the velodrome would be a huge draw.
“During the winter we bring in dozens of international pros, who spend their winters in Tucson getting a step up for the spring season back in Europe,” Melhado said. “With that as a background the only piece of the puzzle that is still missing to sort of round out the cycling experience in Tucson competitively is the velodrome.”
Carney said he is working with the velodrome group to make sure Tucson builds a velodrome that will work for racers and for people with no experience.
“I’m trying not to be too arrogant,” Carney said. “I don’t think anyone has ridden more velodromes on the planet than I have. I have been racing since I was seven years old, I’m 41 now. I’ve seen all these tracks and all these different programs and which ones work and which ones don’t.”
Carney said the velodrome would be in high demand.
“The biggest problem with the velodrome is going to be, we’ve got so many things we want to do with it,” Carney said. “There are only 24 hours a day.”
Melhado said the velodrome would push Tucson over the edge for competitive cyclists.
“It will move Tucson’s stature from where it is now to probably the competitive cyclists’ Mecca of the world,” Melhado said.
Check out this El Grupo video from the Hermosillo velodrome: