European kilo champion and recent Track Cycling World Cup gold medal winner, Callum Skinner, has said that the City of Edinburgh Council are making the same mistake twice in failing to consider an indoor cycle track in Edinburgh. The various options for a planned cycling hub at Hunters Hall Park only include an outdoor facility.
The city’s existing Meadowbank velodrome – the place where both Skinner and Sir Chris Hoy began their careers – is due to be demolished and Skinner says that an indoor velodrome wouldn’t suffer the same problems that have been seen there in recent times.
On his website, Skinner wrote:
“The current situation with Meadowbank is a Velodrome that is crumbling and a track cycling community that is in decline. Meadowbanks main problem since construction is that it is not protected from the elements. Meadowbank is closed over the winter due to poor weather. The weather, even in summer, often results in very irregular training and events being disrupted. Many of Edinburgh's track cycling community now seek cover 50 miles away at the indoor Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow.”
Acknowledging that the city lacks dedicated cycle facilities, the council is planning a cycling hub at Hunters Hall Park in Niddrie, the exact nature of which is yet to be confirmed. Four different options have been listed. Two include an outdoor velodrome, but none includes an indoor version.
Skinner says that the Scottish weather means an outdoor velodrome simply doesn't make sense.
"So this is how I see it, you build half a facility by building a velodrome without a roof, you get a facility that is unusable for at least a third of the year. This unpredictability has a knock on effect for events, training and participants. Will competitors travel across the country to an event that may be rained off? Will parents take their children to a training session that may be cut short or cancelled? The City of Edinburgh Council seem determined to make the same mistake twice."
However, Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport chief, says that there simply isn’t money available for such a project. He also argues that the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow is accessible enough for elite athletes.
“We have £1.215m of funding set aside for this project so we must be realistic in our vision. We need to find an affordable solution that supports the majority of cyclists and learners. An indoor velodrome may be on the wish lists of some of the city’s professional cyclists, but the capital and revenue costs of an indoor velodrome would simply be unaffordable to the council at this time, especially when the indoor Chris Hoy Velodrome – which cost £100m to construct – sits just 40 miles to the west of the city.”
As well as an outdoor velodrome, other facilities listed in the options for Hunters Hall Park include a closed road cycle circuit, BMX and cycle speedway tracks and also synthetic turf 3G football/rugby pitches to compensate for the loss of grass pitches on the site. Plans will be put forward to the Culture and Sport Committee for approval later this month.