Top cyclist’s fears over ‘white elephant’ track

Chris Skinner in action at the Meadowbank velodrome. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Chris Skinner in action at the Meadowbank velodrome. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THE heir apparent to Sir Chris Hoy’s mantle as Scotland’s best track cyclist has slammed plans to replace Meadowbank’s ageing velodrome with an outdoor concrete track.

City of Edinburgh Racing Club member Callum Skinner said building an outdoor facility at Hunters Hall Park in Craigmillar would just create a “white elephant”.

The city council has so far committed £1.2 million to create an alternative banked track, closed 1km road loop and BMX circuit as part of a regional cycling hub.

The plans, backed by Scottish Cycling, would replace the Meadowbank velodrome, which is to be sold off for housing to pay for the nearby stadium’s redevelopment.

Like Hoy, 21-year-old Skinner has credited being given the opportunity to train at the Meadowbank facility with launching his career.

And while the British track cycling team member agreed the creaking track is “substandard”, he said asking top athletes to travel to Glasgow to train on an indoor track was “patronising” and showed a “deep misunderstanding for the sport”.

“Anything other than an indoor facility will become a white elephant,” he said. “The most recent example of this is Glasgow’s own Bellahouston velodrome – a complete waste of time and money.

“The bare minimum replacement for Meadowbank velodrome would be an indoor 200m wooden velodrome. As I’m now based in Manchester I have seen first-hand the benefits a velodrome brings to the community.

“Manchester is built in the deprived Eastlands area. The track is always full to capacity, used by many local schools and the kids’ club has a waiting list.”

Skinner voiced his frustration in an open letter sent to Sports Minister Shona Robison and city culture and sport convener Richard Lewis.

A report on options for Meadowbank Stadium’s future last week estimated it would cost £10.7m to build an indoor 200m velodrome at the site.

Scottish Cycling and the council intend to commission detailed costs for building a minimum-standard indoor velodrome while finalising design plans for the Hunters Hall Park site.

Craig Burn, chief executive for Scottish Cycling, said: “We would rather get things happening than talk for the next ten to 20 years about indoor velodromes and for nothing to happen at all.

“Given our weather and climate, we would love to see a replacement Meadowbank velodrome with a roof on it. However, we also have to be realistic over what’s affordable and who is going to pay for it.”

Councillor Lewis said plans for Meadowbank were still at an early stage, adding: “Realistically affordability is a key factor and we have to take decisions in the context of what provision is available across the country to ensure spending is prioritised where it will benefit the maximum amount of people.”