Demolition of the National Sports Center’s velodrome was mostly finished Friday, but officials with a state cycling nonprofit said they hope to replace the 30-year-old bike-racing facility with a new track elsewhere in the metro area.
The 250-meter velodrome, part of the Sports Center’s 600-acre multisport complex in Blaine, was one of the country’s only outdoor bike tracks with a wooden surface and considered one of the finest, said Jason Lardy, president of the Minnesota Cycling Center (MNCC), the organization that used and maintained it.
But deterioration of the open-air track made frequent repairs necessary and forced its closing last year.
“Many of us put in many hours underneath the track and on top of the track repairing rotted wood,” Lardy said.
MNCC wants to construct a new cycling track by 2023 at an undetermined location in the metro area for an estimated $10 million to $15 million. The organization hopes to cover half the cost with state funding and the balance with private donations.
Meanwhile, no decision has been made about what might take the velodrome’s place at the Sports Center, said spokeswoman Sara Soli.
“We’re working with the Spring Lake Park school district and the city of Blaine on some potential ideas, but nothing has been approved thus far,” she said.
The velodrome, built with state money along with the rest of the Sports Center in 1990, was designed to be a world-class facility. Its steep, 43-degree banked curves were ideal for zipping around on fixed-gear, no-brake bikes.
It hosted the Olympic trials the year after it opened and matches the track built in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics by the same German architects and construction company.
About 200 racers used the Blaine velodrome regularly, with about 50 to 80 competing in races every Thursday, Lardy said. Over the years, the track hosted national and world championships. “It was universally believed to be one of the best tracks in the U.S. — the surface was very smooth, creating a very fast track,” he said.
Three requests to the Legislature for an initial $250,000 for a new track site and architectural designs have failed, Lardy said. He said they recognize that funding may be even harder to come by as the state struggles with economic fallout from the pandemic.
The new track would have a wood surface, he said, but it would go inside an enclosed building. An indoor track could be used year-round, enabling the racing season to held in winter as is traditional in other countries to allow for road racing in summer.
“It’s a very special place,” Lardy said. “Yesterday and today, as the track was being demolished, people have been understandably very emotional. The velodrome represents more than just the wood the track is made of.”