Nearing 15 years since it opened its doors, London’s velodrome is eyeing an expanded role within the city’s cycling community as it gears up for a major race next month.
The Forest City Velodrome, the region’s only indoor cycling tracks, wants to become a gathering place for bike enthusiasts — even those who don’t ride the indoor track.
“Our plan is to incorporate a bit more of a clubhouse area,” said Craig Saari, Forest City Velodrome president.
“If you ride a bike, you can come and hang out at the velodrome.”
The volunteer-run, not-for-profit group is inviting the community in Feb. 1 and 2 to watch professional cyclists compete for nearly $20,000 in prizes. Professional male and female cyclists will complete 1,001 laps around the track in races Saturday and Sunday.
The London facility, with a smaller-than-usual track, was the first indoor velodrome in Ontario and only the second in Canada when it opened in April 2005.
Early Forest City Velodrome boosters saw potential in the vacant Ice House, the former home of the London Knights, building a 138-metre track with steep 50-degree banked turns.
Updates and improvements to the former hockey arena have unfolded in stages, Saari said. Last year, the organization fundraised enough to install new heating and lighting systems in the building.
Now, they have their eyes on improving common areas so cycling enthusiasts from across the city can have a dedicated spot to hang out, Saari said.
“What we want to become is the cycling centre of London, so that all the local clubs have a place to call home,” he said.
One of the velodrome’s primary goals is to “get kids on bikes” and help them hone their skills, Saari said.