New idea may bring velodrome to west Edmonton

By Jeremy Jagodzinski

EDMONTON — With so many false starts, completion of a new velodrome in Edmonton’s west end has been in doubt, but a new strategy may finally help get the project underway.

Last fall, city council scratched funding for the $116-million design of a new velodrome cycling track and a sports complex at Coronation Park. But an idea to split the project into two phases could mean the velodrome design would be started in early June.

It was suggested that the stakeholders of the Coronation park project confirm that the project could be split into two parts, said Coun. Bryan Anderson. This initial phase includes the velodrome and its connection to a pool and running track.

Taking Anderson’s proposal, the Argyll Velodrome Association, the Edmonton Triathlon Academy and community services are simplifying the velodrome’s design to push the project forward. Plans for the rest of the complex will have to wait.

Coronation Park site plan, courtesy of the City of Edmonton website. April 21, 2012.

Coronation Park site plan, courtesy of the City of Edmonton website. April 21, 2012.

This new approach came as a solution to the frustration of the AVA and ETA that after two years of talks, a world-class track was no closer to completion.

The AVA has been looking to build a new world-class indoor velodrome with spectator seating, because of a decision to scrap the aging outdoor track at Argyll. The hope is that a new velodrome would attract world-class cycling events to Edmonton and provide a year-round facility where Canadian cyclists could train.

Because the velodrome did not receive funding last fall from the current three-year capital budget cycle by the deadline, construction won’t start until at least 2015. However, funding to go forward with the velodrome design can still be funded with this year’s supplementary capital budget.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about changing plans to develop the Coronation site.

“What we would like to see is the entire rec centre developed with the velodrome in it,” said Rachel Dumont, project co-ordinator with Community Facility Services. “We need to go back out to the community. This is a shift in the original intent and we need to see how they feel about it.”

Two years ago, city council had commissioned a feasibility study to determine how a velodrome might be incorporated into existing plans of building a facility on site.

As a result, the AVA, ETA and community services hatched a plan to include the addition of the velodrome into the earlier design of the recreation centre by removing the aging arena that exists on site. With the extra costs, council said no to funding the project last fall. The new approach now favours the velodrome while the recreation centre takes a back seat.

The ETA suggests that council may not have approved funding due to a change in its funding policy rather than council’s belief the projected cost was overestimated.

“In the budget sessions council decided that they were not going into any major recreation facilities,” said Brian Hetherington with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy.  “They had done a number in the last few years and there were a couple of them that were still underway.”

The city has spent a total of $720 million building large multi-use sports complexes over the last six to seven years and according to Anderson, council’s policy is to only approve funding for multi-use recreation centres.

By connecting the Velodrome to the pool and track and the future replacement of the arena with the Phase 2 multiplex, the idea is for council to stretch funding to provide as many recreational needs to the community as possible.

Anderson said council simply felt the original design was far too elaborate. “The mayor went crazy,” said Anderson. “So what we decided to do was to bring back a report on what pieces could be considered for a rec centre including a velodrome and I suggested we try and bring it in two phases.”

This two-pronged approach calls for leaving the aging arena where it stands until Phase 2 begins. This provides a temporary solution that ensures the community has continued access to ice, which has always been a concern for surrounding residents and Ross Sheppard High School.

“For the immediate term anyways, [the arena] will continue as the ‘Shep’ and community arena,” said Hetherington. “The arena was possibly going to close and there would be others built in the area, but nothing’s been built as yet.”

The city plans to partner with the Canadian Athletic Club to build a fourplex arena at a site north of the Coronation site.The velodrome and sporting complex will share the space of the Coronation site with an area reserved to expand the Telus World of Science. Although there’s no exact division between the two sites, both projects have been able to respect each other’s “footprint,” said Dumont.

After last month’s discussions, council will likely approve the velodrome design providing there are no unexpected additions to the plan — a goal the AVA has been working towards for a total of eight years.

A public information session on the Coronation rec centre, including future plans for the velodrome, will be held at the Central Lions Senior Centre (11113 113 St.) on May 16 at 6:30 p.m.