$28.5m Avantidrome talk of cycling world

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2014

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Top Kiwi track cyclists will be competing at Cambridge's Avantidrome little over a week after it opens for public use, vying for selection for Commonwealth Games glory.

Building work started on the $28.5m project in June 2012 - the finished Avantidrome building is 120 metres long and as tall as a six-storey building at its highest point.

And top cyclists will be on the 250m track from March 13 for the Bike NZ Elite and U19 Track National Championships.

With the track opening for public use today, staff have plenty to do before the four-day champs.

"It's great, wouldn't have it any other way," Home of Cycling Charitable Trust chief executive Geoff Balme said.

The championships are a "must do event" for selection in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, he said, and are likely to feature up-and-coming athletes looking for selection in future New Zealand teams.

However they won't be the first cycling stars to put wheels to wood at the Avantidrome - previous testers include recently-retired Commonwealth Games gold medallist Alison Shanks and Home of Cycling Charitable Trust deputy chairman and Olympic rowing gold medallist Rob Waddell. And the local community is also lining up track time.

Over 900 people from "right across the spectrum" visited during the five-hour open day on Saturday, Mr Balme said, and checked out the facility and groups including Bike NZ national team athletes in action.

"There was lots of action and lots of people decided to sign up and take classes and . . . sign on for cycling," he said. "There were people that came to see what their ratepayers money was being spent on and went away real happy."

Some community members had been on the track while instructors were being trained, and local groups were already booking meeting spaces within the complex, he said.

"We're going to start reasonably busy. We won't start full and we never expected to, but we're very pleased with where we're going to start at, as far as bookings."

They were lined up for "immediately" after the opening, and Mr Balme said a group of over 50s were due to hit the track tomorrow morning.

Options for the public range from ‘have a go' sessions for new riders and novices to competitive training and social or recreational sessions such as for Mums N Tots.

An hour-long session with bike and helmet hire and an instructor starts from around $15 a session and the public are expected to have access to the track around 75 per cent of the time.

"People can just come in off the street and have a look, people can call in . . . but if people want to see real action, get tickets to the nationals," Mr Balme said.

He is looking forward to having the Avantidrome up and running after a nearly four-year process - starting from the Government's 2010 announcement of a funding boost for high performance sport, including cash for an elite cycling headquarters.

"It's nearly four years from whoa to go, but it took us 18 months before we got a green light [as preferred location]."

Funding for the $28.5m project included $7m from the Government and $6m from the Waikato Regional Council.

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Around 200 people have also sponsored a metre of the 250m track through the Back the Track plan, but Mr Balme hoped they would make up the remainder.

The official opening of the Avantidrome is pencilled in for April 12, and Prime Minister John Key is among those expected to attend.

The prime minister has previously praised the track, last year saying it cemented Cambridge and the Waikato's status as a "centre of excellence".

For tickets for the national championships visit premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=TRACKNAT14

- Waikato Times

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