Express & Star

Velodrome campaign hits critical stage as report backs case for £30m-plus facility

The campaign to build a velodrome in the West Midlands has entered a critical phase after a study backed the business case for a major cycling facility in the region.

Last updated

Potential locations, designs and funding will now be sought, with two Black Country councils being consulted over a project expected to cost between £30-35million.

Though a business case review ruled out building a standalone indoor velodrome, it concluded there is scope for a multi-cycling venue which could include a 250-metre competition-standard track.

Other cycling disciplines, including BMX and mountain biking, would be catered for with a detailed feasibility study now being launched.

Speaking to the Express & Star on Wednesday, West Midlands mayor Andy Street said an indoor track remained central to the project. He also vowed to carry out the findings of the feasibility study, should he be re-elected in May.

Mr Street said: “The whole point of this is thinking about how we make a velodrome viable. There is no scenario, no point to it if we just decide to build a facility which does not offer (a velodrome).

“This report says there is a realistic prospect. There is a market and we believe the maths could work.

“The point of the study was to see if there was sufficient demand for what it would cost. The really good news is if we think really imaginatively about what if offers, with the right mix of things within it, there is.

“We’ve already held discussions with two councils in the Black Country who are very interested.”

The business case review was commissioned by Street last year and its findings represent the most important step yet in a campaign which began more than six years ago, when it first emerged no velodrome would be built for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Track events instead took place in London

Jointly-funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Sport England, the study was conducted by Bridgnorth-based consultancy firm Strategic Leisure.

“Many people would say and I would personally agree it was a big shame there was no velodrome during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham,” said Adam Tranter, the mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, who chaired an advisory group which oversaw the business case report.

He continued: “We had to go to London for the track cycling events, which really summed it up for me.

“The mayor also sees this as an opportunity to give the West Midlands something it deserves and something where there is demand.”

The review focused on the commercial, financial, economic, strategic and viability cases for a velodrome. A report published last year by British Cycling, which found a low-cost facility could be built for £6.8m, was used as a starting point while existing venues at Manchester, London and Newport were studied.

The review found no strategic, commercial or economic case for a standalone indoor velodrome, while renovating existing outdoor tracks at Halesowen and Aldersley were also ruled out.

Instead, the study determined a multi-use facility would be viable and stood a greater chance of receiving funding and generating the required revenues.

Campaigners have been keen to stress any facility would be for the wider community, rather than focused solely on elite sport. Consultation took place with cyclists but also residents in more marginalised communities, with recognition the West Midlands currently has the UK’s highest levels of obesity. The velodrome project fits in with the WMCA’s campaign to get people more physically active.

It is understood the feasibility study will also consider the inclusion of a workshop focused on the design, repair and maintenance of bikes at any potential venue.

“Looking at the other sites in the UK, what they have got right and wrong, has got us into an informed position,” continued Tranter.

“We know there is a business case to do this. We now need a site and funding. I would say there is a lot of interest in supporting that. I am quite positive about it all.

“People might talk about costs rather than investment but if you look at the health inequalties we have in this region and the access to sport for most people, a site like this has the potential to harness all that. That is the bit I am really excited about.”

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition in support of a West Midlands velodrome, while the campaign has been backed by three-time Tour de France winner Greg Le Mond and Brian Cookson, the former head of cycling’s world governing body the UCI.

Campaigner David Viner said: “The conclusion of the business case is a huge step forward for the campaign to have an indoor velodrome together with other possible cycling facilities for the West Midlands. This is long overdue.

“It is acknowledged that sports stadiums can become focal points for strong communities and catalysts for social and economic development – such has been the case with the existing velodromes in London, Manchester, Newport, Derby and Glasgow.

“An indoor velodrome is undoubtedly one of the most adaptive and inclusive of sporting arenas it is possible to build. It is now time for the West Midlands to catch up with other parts of the UK.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.