Velodrome to cycle into Chicago this summer

May 20, 2011 4:33:51 PM PDT
Chicago's Southeast Side will be home to a velodrome -- a large, banked track for bicycle racing -- this summer.

A temporary facility will be built on the former site of the U.S. Steel Plant between 76th and 92nd on Lake Michigan, and the developers hope to one day build a permanent velodrome.

Out of the fog of dashed industrial dreams streaks an 18-year-old high school senior, showing approximately where a $45 million facility is projected to sprout up by 2014. Cycling has helped John Tomlinson be a better student and person, and he thinks a world class facility can put him on the path to an Olympic pedestal.

"The Chicago cycling community is one of the best in the U.S., I think, and to have a velodrome to pull it all together would be great," Tomlinson said.

A velodrome, where 35-degree banked tracks allow brake-less racers to apply skills in races that can make the heart jump.

Erecting one here, as anchor of the Lakeside Village Concept is the brainchild of Emanuele Bianchi. The Chicago resident since 2006 thinks even the temporary velodrome he's setting up this July will show how cycling can transform the South Side.

"To have a chance for all these kids to train and dream about becoming Olympians, and then apply that in real life, we really needed a velodrome," said Bianchi, the president of Chicagovelocampus.

A short-term structure will run east-west at 87th and Burley. He sees it and the permanent facility slated for 2014 as an oasis for human development. Bianchi has been preaching about his dream at monthly community meetings all winter.

"It is a huge instigator, a component to get the whole site developed obviously there is a need and want to have something done here, especially as summer is coming, we need something positive for our kids, and this is a great alternative," said Alderman John Pope, 10th Ward.

Bianchi wants to make the new velodrome the home of the Major Taylor Cup, a new championship for Chicago area cyclists commemorating an African-American World Champion cyclist from 1899.

There's a fundraiser June 3 to get the wheel turning on raising that $45 million where Bianchi's enthusiasm will be on display.

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