So many questions, not many answers

05:05, Feb 07 2012

Invercargill will host the national track championships for the sixth straight year from today but its days as the country's premier indoor velodrome are numbered.

Formerly known as the ILT Velodrome, New Zealand's first indoor track has established itself as one of the fastest sea-level velodromes in the world, a reputation which is set to be enhanced when it hosts the world junior championships this year.

New Zealand's emergence as a power on the world track scene is due in no small part to the Invercargill velodrome.

Looming on the horizon, however, is the so-called Home of Cycling, the Cambridge velodrome which has been pushed through by Sport NZ (formerly known as Sparc). Sport NZ is contributing about a quarter of the money required, about $7 million.

Within cycling, the $28.5m National Cycling Centre is referred to by several names – many of them describing elephants of the albino variety or pits into which money is thrown.

Some have questioned why New Zealand needs another indoor velodrome – well we don't. You might wonder why the old Sparc persevered with Cambridge when it couldn't come up with the extra funding and other centres could?


Or why you wouldn't base a velodrome in Auckland, which has 500 junior cyclists racing on the waterfront on any given Sunday?

Or why the ratepayers of the Waikato Regional Council should supply another $6m for a velodrome which will have few, if any, direct benefits to the area?

Given we have a perfectly adequate velodrome in Invercargill, can the Cambridge experiment be considered anything other than a vanity project? New Zealand will never host an Olympic Games, should never host another Commonwealth Games and is unlikely to be a stopover for the World Cup – so why build a velodrome to the standard of those events?

And if you are determined to do so, why not spend a fraction of the money you need for a new structure to make the alterations required to the Invercargill venue?

Invercargill does have its downsides. It's a difficult place to get people and bikes into. While there are plenty of quiet roads for training, there is a hill shortage.

However, the transport has work-arounds and up the road in Central Otago is a training paradise.

Cycling Southland's volunteer base has shouldered a heavy burden since the Invercargill velodrome was built, hosting national and Oceania championships on top of their own events.

From that aspect it would be good to have another venue capable of picking up the slack.

However, with BikeNZ planning to move to the new centre next year, you wonder how quickly Invercargill will be forgotten despite all its good work for the sport. Aside from the velodrome itself, Cycling Southland's greatest asset is the people who give up their time for the sport.

Will Cambridge be able to conjure up the same skilled, volunteer support?

Many velodromes around the world end up being dismantled or sit unused outside of major competitions, but the Invercargill velodrome is booked solid. Will the Cambridge velodrome match that?

Apart from all that, it's probably a good idea.