New Velodrome Opens

When city officials began talking about building a velodrome nearly a decade ago, it’s likely that most residents had no idea what the word meant. On Saturday, however, they got to see one with their own eyes.

Nearly 1,000 people turned out for the official unveiling of the city’s new Giordana Velodrome, a 250-meter, 42-degree banked bicycle racing track at Riverwalk on the site of the former Celanese industrial site. The track, which also includes viewing stands and a press box, is the first feature in what will be one of the top centers for amateur cycling in the nation.

In addition to the velodrome, the center will include a BMX Supercross dirt track with multiple jumps, the only one of its kind on the East Coast. The center also will feature a cyclocross, a mountain-biking course in which cyclists dismount and push their bikes during races.

Skeptics abounded when this project was in the planning stages. How much interest could there be in bicycle racing.

The answer: Plenty, as evidenced by the number of visitors at Saturday’s opening. In addition to races and other official events at the center, the center also is a likely training site for Olympic-level cyclists.

Perhaps more significantly, the velodrome and other features can be used by local residents now that the track is officially open to the public. Rock Hill could be the birthplace of many a future cycling star.

(Cyclists must be certified by the city before using the track. For more information, see

Those who worried that the cost to the city for this project would be excessive also can rest easy. No property tax or general fund money went toward the project.

The city received $5 million through the federal new market tax credit designation. But the city will pay interest only on that for seven years, at the end of which $1.2 million will be forgiven.

State stimulus funds will pay nearly $800,000 of the $5 million. Hospitality tax revenue, the 2 percent tax on prepared food and drinks, and escrow payments over the 7-year period will reduce the figure by $875,000. Sponsorships of about $700,000 will reduce the total to about $1.4 million.

A project such as this requires foresight, planning and faith. But Rock Hill has ample experience at planning and building successful recreational centers, the prime example being Cherry Park, the city’s premier softball complex that annually plays host to the National Softball Association Class B Girls Fastpitch World Series.

The city also boasts the Manchester Meadows soccer complex, which has been the site for many high school, college and club tournaments. This summer, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association will hold its national championships there.

The new Rock Hill Tennis Center also has sponsored a number of tournaments. And, of course, Rock Hill is the disc golf center of the universe.

The velodrome and the rest of the cycling center, along with shops and offices at the site, and the nearby walking trail along the Catawba River, should be a worthy addition to the list of local sports venues. Once again, the city has shown its vision in tapping into a need that was far from obvious.

Congratulations to all involved in putting this innovative package together.

Originally posted on The Herald, March 18 2012.