Team Colorado Cycling announces plans to resurrect Boulder Valley Velodrome
Shuttered since 2019 and threatened with demolition, the new owners are asking for financial help to rehab the 250-meter track, one of four of its kind in the United States.
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The saying “come hell or high water,” has special meaning for anyone who’s followed the decade-long saga of the Boulder Valley Velodrome.
But, there was good news in the headlines last week when BVV Holdings LLC announced that it is under contract to purchase the beloved — and beleaguered — velodrome in Erie, Colorado, preserving what was once a preeminent training and competition facility for track cyclists.
The investor group consists of some well-known cyclists from Colorado, including USA Cycling’s board chair Cari Higgins. The velodrome will be operated by Team Colorado Cycling, a nonprofit focused on junior development programs.
The plan is to rehab the track, restore the facility to competition-level standards and create a community space that will host events like movie nights, concerts, and festivals.
Although the new owners and operators hope to have the velodrome up and running sometime this summer, the purchase — sources say the property was most recently listed at $1.3 million — did not include a turn-key operation.
After lying fallow for over three years, the velodrome’s “list of needed repairs is long and expensive,” said Todd Stevenson of Team Colorado Cycling. “Our first step is to tap into community support to help pay for needed repairs with the goal of re-opening full-time with weekly racing and other events starting early this summer.”
Team Colorado Cycling has launched a gofundme campaign with the aim of raising at least $75,000 to help pay for needed repairs and improvements.
Hell and high water
The Boulder Valley Velodrome’s history began in 2004 when two longtime fixtures in the Boulder cycling scene, Doug Emerson and Frank Banta, started scheming to build a velodrome near Boulder, home to the University of Colorado.
Some would say they had both the palmares and the passion for such an undertaking — Emerson was the founder of Boulder’s most iconic bike shop, University Bikes, and Banta co-founded a beloved local event, the Buffalo Bicycle Classic, that raised scholarship money for University of Colorado students.
In 2008, the pair was able to purchase 4.2 acres of land in Erie, then a small town in rural eastern Boulder County.
The velodrome project proceeded slowly. After Emerson and Banta purchased the land in 2008, it took two years to get approval for the project from the town of Erie. Then, initial construction didn’t begin until May of 2012.
Nevertheless, Emerson and Banta were ambitious in their aspirations. They hired Canadian Peter Junek to design the velodrome, with hopes that it would become one of the preeminent tracks in the country, and even the world. Junek is internationally recognized as an authority in the field is one of three designers in the world that is recommended by the UCI.
However, in 2013 the “hell and high water” arrived. First, a freak tornado in August blew the nearly finished track to pieces. In September, a thousand-year flood inundated the project site.
The velodrome finally opened in 2015, albeit at a much larger cost than anticipated. The local cycling community was thrilled, and the velodrome played host to competitions and open track sessions. People paid for admittance and memberships, but the financial hole Emerson and Banta found themselves in after years of setbacks proved too deep to crawl out of.
In 2017, the pair put the velodrome — and the surrounding property — on the market for $4.7 million. In October 2019, it went under contract for nearly three million dollars less than the asking price, with buyers who planned to demolish it.
Higgins, a local realtor in Boulder and a 23-time national road and track cycling champion, sprung into action that fall, rallying local cycling enthusiasts to find the cash to better the prior offer. She was able to work out a last-minute deal to purchase the property, and in February of 2020, the property went under contract again, this time to a group that promised to save the velodrome.
A month later, the Covid pandemic shut down the world.
Although it weathered a tornado and a flood, the worldwide lockdown and subsequent financial fallout from the pandemic seemed destined to end the velodrome project for good. Higgins’ group of investors fell apart, and the property again went up for sale.
In fact, the Boulder Valley Velodrome has been shuttered and closed to the public since October 2019.
A home for amateurs and Olympians alike
During the past two years, most of the people interested in purchasing the velodrome property had no intentions of saving it. Erie’s population is booming, and most potential buyers saw the fairly large property as potential for housing or retail. In fact, the town is about to break ground on a new Town Center, which will combine retail, office, residential, civic, park and open space uses.
The Boulder Valley Velodrome happens to sit at the southern end of that new development project.
Higgins believes that resurrecting the velodrome will have benefits for both the community and for cyclists of all levels.
“We are confident that the cycling community will rally to the cause and that this venue can once again host recreational and elite cyclists — whether they entertain Olympic dreams or simply feel the need for speed,” she said.
One of four international-standard 250-meter tracks in the U.S., the Boulder Valley Velodrome is one of two wood tracks of that length in the country. The other, in Carson, California, will host track cycling events in the 2028 L.A. Summer Olympics.
The reopening of the Boulder Valley Velodrome is particularly poignant as access to the U.S. Olympic Velodrome in Colorado Springs has become incredibly limited. The arena used to host all kinds of riders, from amateurs to the Olympic and Paralympic teams, but now access for the non-elite is limited to two days a week, only certain times of year.
Although most Olympic-bound track cyclists have moved to L.A. to train for the Games, supporters of the Boulder Valley Velodrome hope that the reopening might bring them back to Colorado.
An open house at the track is scheduled on May 6 from 2-5 p.m. For additional information and to make a donation: BoulderValleyVelodrome.org.