Momentum is rising for Northern Ireland to get a spanking new velodrome as the main legacy of the extremely successful Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza.
Cycling hierarchy here is confident that it could finally materialise while the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure certainly has not poured cold water on the idea.
Ulster Cycling, has been trying for nearly a decade to replace the decaying Orangefield Track in east Belfast, and now the hard-working Anthony Mitchell sees a slight glimmer of hope with ministers up ‘on the hill’ sending out some positives vibes.
Mitchell, who is the Track Commissioner for Ulster Cycling, believes that the province doesn’t necessarily need an all singing and dancing velodrome like the one in, say, Manchester or Glasgow, but a scaled down model that would still be a world class facility, like the one in Wales.
“We at Cycling Ulster did lay out our case last year,” said Mitchell. “But while Glasgow is a £120m development, it is not just a velodrome but caters for other sports. We have been advised that the velodrome in Newport outside Cardiff is the model we should be looking at. It was built for just over £8 million 10 years ago.
“So basically what we are now talking about is a £10 million facility which would be the first in Ireland and on a world level, so that the likes of our world champion Martyn Irvine doesn’t have to leave his own country to train!
“Things were looking good around 2008 and it looked as if things were leading to a velodrome being a real possibility. Unfortunately it was knocked in the head. Certainly the minister has made positive responses when questioned about it in Stormont. The subject is talked about on a regular basis, but nothing has materialised,” explained Mitchell.
“They are now looking at feasibility studies and from my point of view they should all exist although slightly dated. We want to see things brought back up to speed and keep things in the public eye. To have the people talking about a possible velodrome on the back of the Giro would be a brilliant good news story.”
Sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín pointed towards the governing body of cycling on the island and agreed that DCAL will only get involved once a study has been preformed, but did the vibes are positive.
“Responsibility for bringing forward a proposal for a velodrome rests, in the first instance, with the governing body of the sport, Cycling Ireland, “ she told the News Letter. “The first stage in considering DCAL’s potential role in this development is through a feasibility study.
“As cycling is organised on an All Ireland basis, I and my Department will also be looking at the possibility of an all island approach to both the velodrome and the broader promotion of cycling.”
Mitchell is hopeful, however, that things can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
“An indoor velodrome would be the big legacy of the Giro,” he said.