Velodrome update: Grand Opening Announced at Groundbreaking Ceremony

A contingent of city and neighborhood officials joined bicyclists in the afternoon May 1 for a groundbreaking / ribbon cutting ceremony at the site of the Cleveland Velodrome in Slavic Village.

The project is a long way from complete: At the ground breaking, the only visible sign of the track was a series of brightly colored strips of tape on the asphalt, put down by surveyors to mark the eventual footprint of the oval track.

Apart from that, the area the size of two city blocks remains vacant. Pieces of the track will start to arrive on semi-trucks in early May. Director of the project Brett Davis is still gathering volunteers to put the pieces together. Among other types of labor, he's looking for people who can weld.

But the collection of people in attendance gave a clue that the new facility could mean much more than a new toy for elite bike racers.

In brief comments, Fast Track Cycling board president Brett Davis acknowledged Ward 5 Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, whose ward includes the site at Pershing and Broadway avenues, where St. Michael's Hospital once stood. Also in the crowd were Ward 12 Councilman Tony Broncatelli, City of Cleveland director of community development Daryl Rush, Slavic Village Community Development Corporation director Marie Kittredge, Bike Cleveland director Jacob VanSickle, Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op Director Jim Sheehan, and significant benefactors to the project, including Fast Track trustee Matt Litzler. The mix of municipal leaders and cycling enthusiasts was telling of the range of hopes that the track can be not only a recreational facility for cyclists, but that it can help bring new economic activity to the neighborhood.

On a neighborhood scale, it's the same argument that's been made on behalf of everything from professional sports stadiums to Playhouse Square and other arts centers: visitors who come for the attraction might also patronize a neighborhood restaurant, bar, gas station, or other business.

In his comments, Davis announced that the project had recently met its Stage 1 fundraising goal of $300,000, thanks in part to the Cleveland Foundation's announcement last week that it would commit $50,000—important news not only for the financial boost, but for the prominent foundation's vote of confidence.

Volunteers are sought not only for construction, but to assist with other projects as well: Track programming will be administered on a volunteer basis, and the fund raising effort continues toward future phases of the project—which include an eventual roof over the track.

Construction of the track begins May 10. A fund raiser is scheduled for Saturday, May 26 at the Happy Dog. The Velodrome's grand opening is scheduled for June 16. To get involved, contact Brett Davis:

Watch the Great Lakes Courier for updates. 

Volume 1, Issue 1, Posted 8:18 PM, 05.02.2012