Yesterday morning I woke up to reading an article widely spread on my Facebook feed regarding the probable loss of one of the best cycling education resources we have in Minnesota, the National Sport Center Velodrome. It struck a cord when I shared this news with my brother and received a matter of fact response of “it’s an exposed track, of course it’s falling apart”. I realized how emotionally deep this hit me when the next part of our conversation was my brother asking me a favor and I nearly snapped his head off. Where did this come from?? My emotional connection to loosing a structure that gave way to such a pivotal point in my life. This 250 meters of banked racing runway is far more than stacked wood and some nails; this was where I discovered a passion and myself.
Being a world away from Minnesota and the racing scene over the last year makes me feel a little bit like an asshole because I am not involved in the fight to keep this sport alive and kicking. To be honest, it’s hard for me to be involved without being 100% involved. In my opinion the largest resource needed for this project and continued velodrome efforts is time, which we have little left. Those involved in keeping the track afloat are nearly all volunteers. Finding ways to raise money and maintain the track is an uphill battle. What pisses me off when reading about the NSC Board of Directors’ (BOD) decision and remaining statements in the article are these two statements:
“The niche sport has failed to draw large numbers of competitors or spectators to the arena.”
“The sports center has retired programs in the past that failed to sustain themselves.”
What I would really be interested in knowing is what sort of decisions in the past 25 years has the board made in regards to marketing efforts and paid personnel in order for the track to become a “success”.
Of course if you don’t water a plant, it’s going to die! I’m not talking just about the funds to keep the lights on at night, I’m referring to that fact that NSC seems to gloat about its wildly huge success in numbers on the soccer field and hockey rinks, but yet there has been little efforts for cross marketing to these athletes and parents. If I’m reading the article correctly 3.6 million visitors come to participate and spectate annually. I would be shocked if more than 10% even knew what the stack of logs in the corner even was.
I’m sure the BOD look at their bottom line and see another 75k as purely sunken costs to a track that has no potential beyond a few years. However if you look at the potential it does have there is still time to drive efforts and momentum for it to be a success. How? Hire someone with marketing and business strategy experience who also has passion for this sport. Create more continuous programs throughout the summer targeting kids and adults alike across the sports supported at the NSC. Sell it as a way of cross training and a pure experience with a different sport that has a far longer lifeline. Attract attendance! Serious, what better place on earth than athletes and their parents watching other athletes do that they love! Hire personnel to take admission, no more “volunteer on your honor contributions”! Hire people for the concession stand. Sorry but there are only so many mom’s of athletes willing to work 17 weeks straight every Thursday evening as a volunteer (thanks mom). Have more special events at the track creating exposure and education regarding the sport. How many people out there even know that this at one point in America was the largest sport and largest paid sums of money to athletes? Yes, even over baseball.
The possibilities and potential are there. Now, you might be thinking why the hell would you put ALL this effort into a track with only a few years left of use? Let’s just say you take my advice and popularity grows. Things are looking great and new athletes and spectators are gaining exposure to a sport. Having the MN Cycling Center in the works is a perfect transition into a new facility that could continue these efforts and create revenue. It’s a far cry, but maybe the NSC BOD would be interested to play a hand as investors. Minneapolis is an incredible place to live and submerging yourself in the cycling community is a wonderful experience. In fact, life altering…I know. Loosing a track in the metro area would be incredibly sad, even for those who never even knew it was there or got to experience its bliss.