Bicyclists pitch a $40 million track project for Northeast Minneapolis

The existing wooden velodrome in Blaine has three years left in the tank, at best, says Barclay Kruse of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.

The existing wooden velodrome in Blaine has three years left in the tank, at best, says Barclay Kruse of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. Star Tribune

The Twin Cities need a new velodrome, a banked track designed for hardcore bicycle racing.

So say a group of area cycling enthusiasts. Blaine's outdoor wooden Velodrome, built in 1990, exists on borrowed time. Meanwhile, thousands of urban kids could use some two pedal love.

This has the nonprofit MN Cycling Center selling a grand plan to make things right: It's asking state taxpayers to largely bankroll a $40 million indoor track on a historic Minneapolis site where steam engines once chugged.

Canadian Pacific owns Shoreham Yards, 230 fallow acres on Central Ave. NE. The parcel contains a semi-circular roundhouse that was originally built in 1887 as a storage barn for locomotives.

The Center, an education and advocacy organization for all things bicycle, first pitched its vision for a "world-class bicycle racing track" in 2013. The project includes a multi-purpose sports infield, outdoor BMX course, concert venue, and 20,000 square feet of retail space — with a communal, kid-friendly hook.

"It would have a broad range of community activities, community amenities that will go on at the space that go well beyond cycling itself," says President Jason Lardy. "For example, we're in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools to develop a science curriculum for kids based around bikes… the science of cycling, the practical mechanics of bicycles, and so on. We'll take curriculum classrooms and then they'll come to our facility for the hands on aspect."

Nearly three years later, the kickstand stays down.

The project's estimated price tag has doubled. Enlarging racing's fan base is also a struggle. The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, which owns the Blaine velodrome, and Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents the ward where Shoreham Yards is located, have voiced support. Yet the hard cash to get the project off the ground remains a ghost rider.

Two bills, including one authored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), idle in legislative committees. Both proposals ask state lawmakers for $250,000 for planning. Lardy says it'll take another $25 million more in state bonding money for construction.          

The Minnesota Legislature ended its last session without approving any bonding proposals. The velodrome "wasn't included in any of those bonding measures," says the Sports Commission's Barclay Kruse. 

Lardy understands the body politic moves glacially. But he's encouraged by how the plan has been received by lawmakers "because they recognize the benefit of the educational aspect and the sort of regional destination concept of this."

Hence, he'll be back at the State Capitol when the next scheduled session convenes in January.

"This is not for 200 or 500 cyclists to use for their own fun," he says. "It's for the community to use as a destination, whether it's to go to the restaurant in our retail space or classes on how to fix a bicycle or it's coming for a concert they want to go to. There's going to be a wide range of ways we're going to be engaging with the community and multiple ways we're generating revenues for the facility."