The World Cycling League plans to build a $20 million multipurpose indoor velodrome and events center in Berks County, consolidating the region’s reputation as a cycling powerhouse.
The tentatively named National Velodrome and Events Center would be about 80,000 square feet with 2,500 seats around a 200-meter track and a 25,000-square-foot infield, said David Chauner, CEO of the World Cycling League.
“It’s going to make southeastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley and Berks as the epicenter of cycling in the United States,” said Chauner, a two-time Olympic cyclist who was one of the first directors of the Velodrome in Breinigsville, Lehigh County, now known as the Valley Preferred Cycling Center.
The track would be part of a new format in track cycling that uses regional teams, Chauner said.
After considering Coatesville, Chester County, and Wilmington, Del., league officials zeroed in on Berks County because of its rich cycling tradition, enthusiasm of the community and proximity to the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, which draws riders from around the world, Chauner said.
Officials scouted four locations with the Greater Reading Economic Partnership and have selected an undisclosed location in the Reading area, Chauner said.
The facility, which would be used for other sporting events and small concerts, is expected to draw about 50,000 out-of-town visitors a year and create about 100 full- and part-time permanent jobs, he said.
“The infield can be used for entertainment during the bike races or for small concerts and other sporting events that are too small to play in bigger arenas, like national badminton, gymnastics, boxing or wrestling,” Chauner said.
“It’s kind of the ideal site for that,” he said.
The league test-piloted the model for team track cycling, called Team Trak, last March at the Velo Sports Center in Los Angeles, the only indoor velodrome in the U.S. The Pennsylvania Lightning, which will be this region’s home team, won the event against the California Waves.
Using a new scoring system and applying the latest technology, Team Trak was livestreamed on the web.
The league plans to build a network of facilities on the East Coast. The tracks will be indoor because of seasonal variations in weather. The league is planning to build another velodrome in New Haven, Conn.
“It’s like baseball. It’s not a sport because it has one ball park. It’s a sport because it has a network of them,” Chauner said.
“One of the keys to this is we need to produce our own multipurpose facilities from the ground up to showcase this form of team track cycling,” he said.
The velodrome would hold about 12 to 15 cycling meets during the track season, which runs from October to March.
“We want to create an international league of riders from all over the world in the World Cycling League who will be living in the area,” he said.
Chauner was familiar with Berks’ cycling community because of his work for several years with the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling, an international road race that includes a day in Reading.
“The Reading area has tremendous media support and a strong and engaged cycling community,” Chauner said.
Tourism officials have been promoting the area as an attraction for mountain biking and road racing. The Reading 120, a 120-mile professional bike race between Reading and Kutztown that features about 160 world-class riders, has helped put the region on the map and draw visitors and money into the area.
The World Cycling League’s idea to build a velodrome in Berks took off rapidly after officials presented it in September to about a dozen key leaders in the community that included County Commissioner Christian Leinbach.
Pamela Shupp, executive director of GREP, led a task force that explored potential sites for the velodrome.
The league is obtaining about $5 million in New Market Tax Credits, a federal program for development projects that help rehabilitate blighted or old industrial areas.