Tucson velodrome approved for bond, full funding up for debate

The proposed Tucson velodrome won a spot on the upcoming Pima County bond election in a landslide victory Friday.

The county’s bond advisory committee voted 15-4 in favor of the $5 million track, but how much funding it will actually receive remains to be seen; the committee still has to whittle down the bond from $700 million to $550 million.

“It’s good to see it made the final cut,” said Joey Iuliano, a member of the Arizona Velodrome Committee, a group pushing for the project. “But we’re still going to have to stay active to make sure it receives as much funding as possible.”

The plan

Proponents of the plan, proposed nearly a decade ago, asked the county to keep the $5 million velodrome idea on the list projects for the bond election, which has been postponed for years due to recession turmoil.

The Tucson plan, similar to the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, S.C. and the Boulder Valley Velodrome in Erie, Colo., calls for a 250-meter concrete track and facilities such as an access tunnel, locker rooms, a small building, lights and seating for 1,000 spectators. The proposal cites a possible location at Kino Sports Complex near Country Club Road and Ajo Way in Tucson.

Cyclists argue the track could be an attraction for out-of-state riders from New Mexico, Nevada and Mexico who could benefit from a more closely-located facility. Another goal for the committee is to attract national and international cycling events – Arizona already is home to world cycling champion Gea Johnson (FASTER).

“For me personally, a velodrome would provide the opportunity to actually discover and reach my potential,” Johnson said. “I would be a much better rider right now if Arizona had a velodrome. I am at a significant disadvantage, especially competing on an elite level where, of course, the women train on a velodrome daily. The better I get, the more it becomes a problem – not the reverse.”

The velodrome committee wants the velodrome to be a multi-use facility, used not only for track cycling and racing but also for volleyball, concerts, hand cycling and inline speed skating. They also propose to develop specialized programs to work directly with at-risk youth.

Iuliano said although the bond would cover construction, other operating costs would come from various sources.

How it passed

The committee already punted the proposal in December to Friday’s meeting, giving supporters more time to gather petition signatures and clearer information on financial support.

“The petition helped a lot; it confirmed our budget projections,” Iuliano said, citing 825 signatures. “Having Perimeter Bicycling commit to running it and maintaining it helped.”

Bond committee members raised concerns about locations and how the velodrome would involve youth, but supporters had answers: Marana would serve as a backup location, and 12-year-old national track champion and Phoenix resident Kayla Hankins testified, serving a an example of a local youth success story.

“This fits well in park program,” said bond committee member Gary Davidson, who voted for the velodrome. “It can serve the youth well and bring visitors, which fills hotel rooms and restaurants. It serves our residents well, which is critical.”

A minority of bond committee members still weren’t convinced.

“I have a problem with a sport where someone pays thousands of dollars for equipment but can’t cough up $1 million for their own facilities,” said Patricia Richardson, a bond committee member who voted against the proposal.

What’s next

Now that the bond committee approved the velodrome, they will next have to cut the bond by $150 million. Velodrome supporters will have to fight for as much funding as possible through testimony at a February meeting.

Once funding is determined, the bond committee will assemble the bond and send to voters for approval, which could come as early as this year.

History shows a bond in Pima County would likely be approved by voters. However, planning and construction could take several years, and Arizona riders may not circle the track until 2020, Iuliano said.

“I’m really exited,” Hankins said. “The velodrome would put Arizona on a level playing field with other states, and we would have opportunities to do wonderful things with cycling and to develop many more track cyclists.”

Tucson Velodrome Proposal


Pima County Bond Advisory Committee

Sarah Muench