Tucson velodrome proposal to face bond committee

It’s do or die for a proposed Tucson velodrome on Friday morning when it faces the Pima County bond advisory committee.

Proponents of the plan, proposed nearly a decade ago, will ask the county to keep the $5 million velodrome idea on the docket of items for a future bond election, which was postponed due to recession turmoil.

“This idea has been floating around for quite a while in Arizona, and it’s great to finally see some momentum,” said Ben Elias, a member of the Arizona Velodrome Committee, which is made up of local cyclists and Perimeter Bicycling Association of America. “It sure seems like the community is in support of a cycling project like this, and it has the potential for great economic and social impact in our region.”

Pima County Bond Advisory Committee Meeting

When: Friday, Dec. 12 at 8 a.m.

Where: River Park Inn 350 S. Freeway Tucson, Arizona

The Tucson velodrome proposal has survived the cut each time the bond advisory committee has whittled down its list of projects, but Joey Iuliano, a member of the velodrome committee, said if the project is approved on Friday, it stays.

At risk is the concept itself, Iuliano said. He said the bond advisory committee researched velodrome costs and mistakenly included indoor, wooden velodromes like those of Manchester, England that can cost more than $40 million. Gea Johnson track

Iuliano said he and the velodrome committee members want to set the record straight at the meeting, that the proposal is for an outdoor velodrome, and the price tag is still $5 million.

The 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 facility’s proposed location is Kino Sports Complex near Country Club Road and Ajo Way in Tucson. The committee argues 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.”

Johnson said the only way to learn and gain experience in events like the Keirin and match sprint, both Olympic events, is on a velodrome.

“I love Arizona,” Johnson said. “It really is sad that I am now going to have to move out of state to pursue elite level and Olympic quests.”

The 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.

“The project represents an ideal situation for public-private partnership,” Iuliano said. “We’re asking for the bond to fund construction and private donations and sponsorships to help get it running and reach profitability.”

If the bond advisory committtee votes to keep the project, they will then assemble the bond and send to voters for approval, which could come as early as 2015. 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.

Still, Iuliano and Elias said if it doesn’t stay on the docket on Friday, Tucson may never get a track. They encourage cyclists to attend the meeting and speak during the public comment period to support the velodrome proposal.

“The biggest benefit of having people show up in person is that it shows the committee that there are people who truly care about the project,” Iuliano said.

Of the proposed FASTER Velodrome in Scottsdale, Iuliano said he welcomes the idea of two velodromes in Arizona.

“It’s great to see other proposals,” Iuliano said. “There is plenty of local support in both cities to support two velodromes. Plus, if you want to earn your Cat 1 [upgrade] you have to race at another track.”

Elias said he is optimistic about Friday’s meeting in Tucson.

“Pima County has a long history of supporting bicycle infrastructure so hopefully that legacy will continue,” he said.

Tucson Velodrome Proposal


Pima County Bond Advisory Committee

Sarah Muench