Reading, Pa. – The World Cycling League (WCL) has announced plans to build its $20 million world headquarters and a state-of-the-art indoor velodrome on a seven-acre site owned by Albright College.
The National Velodrome and Events Center at Albright College, a 2,500-seat, high-tech cycling arena, will be the second world-class indoor velodrome (bicycle racing track) in the United States and the first one on the East Coast. In addition to livestreaming worldwide coverage of WCL international cycling meets between October and March each year, the modern technology-enabled facility will host year-round cycling programs, pre-Olympic training camps and events, collegiate events and a variety of other sporting events and special programs.
WCL principals first pitched their National Velodrome concept to representatives of Berks County and the Greater Reading community last September. Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach put Pam Shupp, CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership, in charge of a task force to identify possible sites within the community.
“We had an overwhelming response from property owners, developers and construction companies who wanted to be considered,” said Shupp. “But when we got the call from the president of Albright College expressing interest, we knew this could be the winning formula.”
Lex O. McMillan III, Ph.D, the president of Albright, who will be retiring at the end of the spring semester, agreed: “We have been looking for unique things to set Albright apart and to support Reading community initiatives. After meeting with Pam and WCL principals, we realized that having an international velodrome connected to the College would put Albright at the forefront of cycling development, enhance our community and become a unique recruiting tool for new students with an interest in cycling.”
McMillan and incoming Albright president Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D., envision a variety of cycling and velodrome-related initiatives that will contribute to student life at the College, including adding cycling as a varsity club sport, providing student internships at the velodrome, and enhancing Albright’s business curriculum by adding velodrome-related courses in sports marketing, event management, video production, communications and more.
WCL’s CEO, David Chauner, is enthusiastic about the Albright partnership and solid support from Reading and Berks County community leaders. “We couldn’t find a better public/private partnership than this to usher in a new, inclusive way of showcasing track cycling to the public and provide more opportunity for cyclists,” he said. Chauner added that Reading is the center of some of the most beautiful cycling countryside and mountain biking in the nation and that the community has a strong cycling legacy from early bicycle manufacturing days to more recent international races like the Commerce Bank Triple Crown and Reading 120.
According to economic research, the velodrome will generate more than $30 million per year in spending from 50,000 annual out-of-town visitors and will create more than 160 direct and indirect jobs in the area. Its unique year-round programs and special events will regularly draw teams, clubs and fans from a 150-mile-plus radius, and the WCL and Albright will offer a comprehensive program of community cycling activities including youth and scholastic cycling clinics, developmental classes, local club programs, corporate outings and special training camps for current and future Olympic cyclists. Some 50 world-class male and female cyclists who compete in the WCL are expected to reside in the area and serve as trainers and coaches in collegiate and community programs.
“Partnerships are what make things happen,” said Berks Commissioner Leinbach. “If you want to see this community change, ideas are a starting point, but what will make the difference is when elected officials, the private sector, the community and an entity like Albright College says we want to be part of this. Because of the power of partnerships, I truly believe that we will return Berks County and Reading, Pa., to its historical roots as a cycling destination.”
The Burkey Group of Reading has been chosen to build the facility, which will be located on Rockland Street west of 11th Street. Construction financing will be spearheaded by Steven Soler and Jason Petuck, real estate investment specialists from Greenwich, CT, who have secured public, private and municipal financing for a variety of unique real estate projects throughout the United States. Financing and all required approvals and permits are expected to be in place for construction to begin by late summer 2017, with the goal of opening the velodrome for the 2018-19 academic year. This timeframe will also accommodate World Cycling League’s first season and provide East Coast cyclists with an indoor facility to prepare for the 2020 Olympics.