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Velodrome plans unveiled for Kingsbridge Armory

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Members of the National Cycling Association foresee the Kingsbridge Armory as the site of a velodrome that can host a six-day series of indoor bicycle races, and be open to the public for two months. But that dream may be a bigger long shot than any race entrant.

The NCA unveiled its vision for a velodrome at the Kingsbridge Armory on Thursday, November 4.

Its leadership believes that by setting up a temporary velodrome at the Armory next May, it can sell the Bronx and the city on its long-term goal of making the Armory the permanent home of indoor track cycling in New York.

The six-day event, the NCA argues, would attract visitors from all over the world.

And keeping the track up for two months surrounding the event for community use would promote the sport as a recreational pursuit.

Jack Simes, president of the NCA, said the temporary velodrome setup and event could be a reality for as little as $700,000.

The National Cycling Association plans to raise the money through private sponsorship.

“It would be a demonstration about what we can do for the community,” Simes said. He added the goal of a permanent velodrome would be “much further down the road.”

But Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, president of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and chief spokesperson for the NWBCCC’s Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, said achieving the temporary velodrome goal would not be so simple.

“I think its unrealistic,” she said, adding that preparing the Armory to accommodate over 2,500 spectators would exceed the minimum figure quotes by Simes.

“I would be concerned about peoples’ safety. It’s a very old building. This is one of the reasons it’s a challenge.”

Indoor track cycling was developed in New York City in the late 1800s. Six-day races were frequently held at Madison Square Garden throughout the first half of the 20th century.

The Kingsbridge Armory also hosted the races, most recently in 1948.

The sport is still very popular in Europe and is part of the summer Olympics.

The United States competes internationally, and most cyclists train at centers in eastern Pennsylvania and southern California.

The NCA, however, would like to see the Kingsbridge Armory become that training hub.

NCA director of business development Michael Green said the velodrome would both infuse money into the community thanks to international visitors, and provide a needed recreational outlet for kids.

“This would make the city a destination,” he said. “We would develop health and educational programs for youth, we can address obesity and asthma problems through cycling...We think a state-of-the-art facility will give kids the opportunities to become elite athletes, and it fits in well with the with the city’s push to develop cycling as a form of transporta­tion.”

Pilgrim-Hunter, who sat on the borough president’s Kingsbridge Armory Task Force, said the main goal of the five-acre complex should be to generate good jobs, and a velodrome would not necessarily do that.

“I don’t want to sound like a Debbie downer. We welcome all opportunities, and we’re very serious about seeing that this armory is developed,” she said.

“We’re not looking for something temporary. We’re looking for a permanent economic engine that would be an asset to the community.”

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at wweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394. Follow him on twitter @bweisbrod

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group