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Velodrome plans cancelled at Albright College, Fairgrounds Square Mall a possibility

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The 2,500-seat National Velodrome at Albright College would have been the second indoor bike track in the country and would have given national and international exposure to the small, private liberal arts college in Reading.
The 2,500-seat National Velodrome at Albright College would have been the second indoor bike track in the country and would have given national and international exposure to the small, private liberal arts college in Reading. - (Photo / )

Albright College will likely not be getting a $25 million velodrome, officials said.

The World Cycling League, which was raising money to build the indoor cycling track, has been looking at other locations in and around Berks County, including the struggling Fairgrounds Square Mall in Muhlenberg Township, officials at both organizations said Wednesday.

The 2,500-seat National Velodrome at Albright College would have been the second indoor bike track in the country and would have given national and international exposure to the small, private liberal arts college in Reading.

Albright College had planned to add academic programs in connection to the arena and to use it for collegiate sporting and other events.

But other real estate opportunities are beckoning for the World Cycling League.

“We are considering renovation of vacant, big-box retailers and declining malls in several locations as a lower-cost alternative to building from scratch and where there is already ample parking, infrastructure and enough space to include a hotel on the property,” David M. Chauner, CEO of TeamTrak by World Cycling League, said in a statement.

“The Fairgrounds Square Mall has one such site that we are considering along with others both in Berks County and closer to Philadelphia,” Chauner said.

Hull Property Group, the Augusta, Georgia-based owner of the Fairgrounds Square Mall, announced earlier this year it plans to demolish about 70 percent of the mall, while Boscov’s, Burlington Coat Factory, an AMC movie theater and several other businesses outside the indoor mall will remain open.

“This was a mutual decision between World Cycling League and Albright College and we continue to be supportive of WCL’s efforts,” Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, president of Albright College, said in a statement.

“We want WCL to build the velodrome in this area — this is good for Reading and good for Berks County. And, we want them to be close enough that Albright can partner with them, which would be a win for Albright. The location they have found fits all of these criteria and, at the same time, makes it more likely that they might be able to raise the necessary capital for construction — a true win-win,” Fetrow said.

Carey Manzolillo, director of communications at Albright, said the World Cycling League began exploring the Fairgrounds as an option last summer.

“In August they informed the college they felt the location was a better option. By definition, that voided the memorandum of understanding between the World Cycling League and the college,” Manzolillo said.

The memorandum was formally voided Nov. 2, she said.

Earlier this year, Lex McMillan, president of Velodrome Development Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising organization, and former president of Albright College, said the addition Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner, as chairman of the foundation would attract more donors and investors to the velodrome project.

The league planned to build the 95,000-square-foot velodrome on a plot of vacant land the college owns on Rockland Street, west of 11th Street, that is contiguous to the campus but not next to academic buildings or residential halls.

Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem and the Burkey Group of Reading had been chosen to design and build the velodrome at Albright.

The velodrome would have been home to the PA Lightning, the state’s WCL racing team, and host to at least 12 WCL meets each season between October and March, as well as livestream WCL international cycling meets.

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