Velodrome gets green light despite cash shortfall

Champion cyclist Callum Skinner at the bulldozed Meadowbank site.

Plans to build a velodrome as part of a new cycling hub in the east of the city have been pushed forward – despite a funding gap of £441,000.

The new cycling facilities will be built at the Jack Kane Centre at Hunter’s Hall Park – less than three miles from the former Meadowbank velodrome, which was constructed for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and was the first 250-metre timber track in the UK.

The velodrome at Meadowbank was shut in September 2017 ahead of the stadium closing its doors at the end of last year. The new facility would be a boost to the city’s cycling community, and seen as a replacement velodrome for Meadowbank.

The new velodrome will be accessible for beginners, disabled cyclists and children. Unlike the indoor Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, which has a 45 degree bank, the Edinburgh velodrome will be tilted at just 30 degrees – meaning there won’t be a minimum speed for cyclists to use it.

The Hunter’s Hill Park velodrome will not only be used by elite cyclists, but targeted for all levels of ability. It will be constructed out of Tarmac, rather than the timber velodrome at Meadowbank, which was only usable for around 80 days every year as it couldn’t be used when damp.

The first step in refurbishing the Jack Kane Leisure Centre will be to provide 3G football pitches – and work could start before the end of the year. There are also proposals to build a BMX pump track. A planning application is still to be determined by the council’s Development Management Sub Committee.

The overall project faces a £441,000 funding gap and a bid for a grant from sportscotland has been lodged. Edinburgh Leisure is “reluctant at this moment in time to take a financial commitment towards the cycling element” of the project.

Councillor Mark Brown suggested the council could “consider discussions with external businesses to invest in perhaps naming rights of the velodrome to help sure that funding gap”.

Cycling clubs have welcomed the vision for the new velodrome. Phil Darby, Edinburgh Road Club president, said: “Edinburgh Road Club welcomes the building of a new cycling facility which would enable members and the public access to a traffic free cycling environment on which to train, race, enhance their skills and enjoy bike riding.

“The proposed hard track would offer distinct advantages to ERC members especially the youth (under 16) section which has grown strongly over the past ten years. Its shallower banking will enable younger riders to use the track without the risk of sliding off, be grippy while wet, while floodlighting would allow outdoor sessions to continue during winter evenings. The facility could develop into a focus for cycling in Edinburgh especially if further opportunities could be developed nearby.”

Culture and Communities Convener, Cllr Donald Wilson, said: “After appraising all options, the council is looking to create a brand new outdoor velodrome in Hunter’s Hall Park where the Jack Kane Sports Centre and Community Education Centre is based. This will provide opportunities for adults and young people to develop their track cycling ability and help to improve their confidence.

“I am determined to see us build the best velodrome we can with the funds we have available and we will be seeking additional financial support from other sources. Everyone is keen to see the project move forward and for inclusive facilities to be delivered, and it is important that we get it right.”

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