NSC Velodrome Closes
On August 29, the last race was run at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, Minnesota. The wooden track has been a staple of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro for the last 30 years ago. Sadly, despite the National Sports Center’s and track volunteer’s commitment to preservation efforts, it’s been clear for several years that Minnesota’s infamous winters were taking their toll and that the track’s days were numbered.
Knowing that the NSC Velodrome’s end was near, an entrepreneurial group of local cyclists created the Minnesota Cycling Center to try to keep track racing alive in the Twin Cities. Their ambitious plan was to build a world-class indoor velodrome in Minneapolis that would be part velodrome, part S.T.E.A.M. learning center, and part event center. Although the MN Cycling Center’s S.T.E.A.M. initiatives are already being rolled out across the metro, the velodrome’s building project has been delayed; initially because delays in lobbying for funding from the Minnesota statehouse and later because of losing access to the planned building site in northeast Minneapolis. Right now, it’s not clear when we’ll see track racing in Minnesota again.
On Sunday I drove to Blaine to see the velodrome one last time before it’s torn down. I was sad to see a handful of cyclists retrieving their track bikes from an on-site storage shed. They smiled somberly and patted each other on the back as they loaded their steads into their cars for the last time.
It has been a hard year for the local cycling community. In March, homegrown Olympian Kelly Catlin passed away. Then in June, the North Star Grand Prix, a fan-favorite pro stage race, was canceled, likely permanently. There have also been a smattering of automotive-related cycling deaths in Minnesota this year. Ending the summer riding season with the closing of the NSC Velodrome with no imminent replacement is another frustrating event for one of the best cycling communities in North America.
Fingers crossed that the Minnesota Cycling Center will be able to make their dream of an indoor velodrome a reality. If they are able to build their track, it will revolutionize the community in the same way that the Lexus Velodrome has in Detroit. Until then, the local cycling community will need to come together to support and uplift each other. Embrace their sport and enjoy its simple beauty. And, of course, make plenty of trips to the Washington Park Velodrome in Kenosha, Wisconsin.