20 Dec 2018

Plans to cover Whanganui velodrome up in the air

6:57 pm on 20 December 2018

Plans to put a roof on the Whanganui velodrome remain up in the air following the announcement of a new study into its viability.

Artist's impression of Whananui Velodrome

Artist's impression of Whananui Velodrome Photo: Supplied

The Regional Velodrome Development Trust wants to cover the track for about $12 million to create an all-purpose indoor arena and a cycling hub that can feed into the National Centre of Cycling Excellence in Cambridge.

In September, a Sport New Zealand review of the proposal - conducted at the request of the Project Control Group - found that further analysis and information was required before it could support the project.

Now Sport New Zealand and the Whanganui District Council have announced they are going to work together to determine the scope, viability and cost of putting a roof on the city's velodrome.

Mayor Hamish McDouall said the council needed to be prudent about such a large capital expenditure and understand the viability and potential usage of a covered velodrome before it did any further work.

"Our community, region and central government must be satisfied that this is an affordable project and that it will be sustainable throughout the duration of its life."

About $3m has been pledged to the project so far including a $1m contribution from the Whanganui District Council.

But a $6m commitment made from the previous government is yet to be nailed down.

Mr McDouall acknowledged the Regional Velodrome Development Trust for its ongoing dedication and tireless effort to secure funding, which had largely been without recognition and in a voluntary capacity.

Artist's impression of Whanganui Velodrome

Artist's impression of Whanganui Velodrome Photo: Supplied

"Their enthusiasm and dedication has driven the project to this point and has required the time and energy of not only the Trustees, but also their families."

Leigh Grant from Raise the Roof - an umbrella group fund-raising for the project - said he was confident the project would still go ahead.

There was demand for a covered facility in Whanganui and the velodrome was perfect venue, he said.

"We could run kapa haka there, adaptive wheelchairs for the disabled and we've incorporated an inline skating track into the design. It would be a true multi-use venue."

A covered velodrome would also be a beacon to competitive cyclists from the lower North Island, Mr Grant said.

"We see it operating as a regional hub feeding into the National Centre of Cycling Excellence in Cambridge."

The first asphalt cycling track was laid at Cooks Gardens in the 1930s.

In 1995 the first hardwood track of its kind in the country - designed and built by acclaimed track designer Ron Webb - was installed in Whanganui and it is widely regarded as the fastest track in New Zealand.

Supporters of the project believe covering the velodrome will reveal the true potential of the tropical hardwood track.

Mr Grant said if approved it would take about 18 months to cover the velodrome and it was hoped the project would be completed sometime in 2020.

The latest scoping study is due to be complete in the first quarter of 2019.