Plans to build Ireland’s first international standard cycling velodrome took another massive step forward this week when Dundalk-based Cuchulainn Cycling Club announced plans to construct an indoor Velodrome in conjunction with Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) in their newly acquired JJB Building.
The plans have also been presented to Cycling Ireland whom have already stated their intent to construct an indoor velodrome and are very welcoming of the project and are exploring how this can be advanced.
The building was originally constructed to house 12 indoor soccer pitches a swimming pool, gym, ice-rink and bar/restaurant complete with 500 car parking spaces. DKIT started negotiations to purchase the building in 2013 and finally signed off on the contract last month.
Cuchulainn CC announced their plans to build a velodrome and cycling park in Dundalk as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2010. A velodrome is an arena for cycling, similar in shape to an athletics track, except with steeply banked corners that allow cyclists to reach speeds in excess of 80kph. This style of cycling is very popular around the world with 10 of the 18 cycling events held in London 2012 being held on the track. To date a lot of hard work has gone into the project to make Dundalk the cycling capital of Ireland.
Towards the end of 2013 a huge leap forward was made with the securing of planning permission and long term lease from Dundalk Town Council for a 7.5 acre site at Muirhevnamor Park, adjacent to DKIT. However since then an improved possible vision has started to take shape and in consultation with PJ Lane Construction, the builders of London’s Olympic Velodrome and chief engineer, Gary Sheils of Sheils Engineering, the possibility of building the indoor track at the JJB facility was discussed. PJ Lane saw huge potential in the building and plans drawn up by Sheils Engineering uncovered an extremely lucky coincidence, the building is the perfect sized to contain an international standard 250m circumference track. “It was almost as if the original architect had a long term plan to put a track in this building” said Sheils upon completing his measurements.
Dundalk is the ideal location for the placement of such a sporting arena. The town and surrounding areas has a population of almost 60,000 and is located in the centre the most populous areas of the country along the Dublin/Belfast corridor with excellent, road, rail and bus networks. Analysis of clubs registered with Cycling Ireland show that 11 of Ireland’s 15 biggest cycling clubs are located less than 1.5 hours from Dundalk. Meanwhile Dublin and Belfast the country’s biggest cities are within an hour’s drive. The plan will also be welcomed by Northern Ireland cyclists as a similar project promised to the province in the build up to the 2012 Olympic games never materialised despite assurances given by the UK government.
Preliminary discussions with DKIT, owners of the building, have taken place and further investigations commissioned. The project was presented to Cycling Ireland, who immediately spotted the potential to realistically construct not only Ireland’s first international standard velodrome in an existing modern facility but were also delighted to hear that a completion date of September 2014 has been set. An indoor facility further expands the possible use of the facility to include children, women, elite athletes and for people with disabilities as well as general cycling enthusiasts. The safe, enclosed, traffic- free track is a perfect environment to introduce both the sport and in general safe commuting practices to both children and adults alike. Additionally, Ireland’s current elite athletes and para-athletes have to undertake regular international travel to find appropriate training venues in their quest to win world and Olympic medals.
The sport of track cycling has always been very popular in Japan and Australia, while the UK in particular has seen a renaissance in the sport with the Great Britain team winning 12 medals in London, including 8 golds, and a further 22 at the Para-Olympics, including yet another 8 gold. The sport is also on the rise in Ireland with Olympian Martin Irvine winning a World Championship and Caroline Ryan also claiming a silver medal at the 2013 Worlds in the pursuit event.
Current World Scratch Champion Martyn Irvine has welcomed the project saying “not only is it fantastic news for a local club but for Cycling in Ireland” he went on to say that this development will benefit cyclists of all ages for years to come and enable Ireland to put a sustainable track programme in place. Martyn is currently based in the US as there is no suitable facility for him to train in this country.
Caroline Ryan from Kildare is currently the No. 1 ranked female pursuit rider in the world and like Martyn is forced to travel around Europe and the world to train and would also benefit immensely from this facility.
The velodrome will also be available to grass roots cycling and will attract cyclists of all ages from across the country and further afield. The venue will facilitate everything from local underage leagues to national championships and international races. Pat O’Shaughnessy Cuchulainn CC Club Chairman and Board Member of Cycling Ireland has expressed his delight at the news, “Our club secretary Karl Dolan originally proposed the idea to the club committee back in 2009 as a project to mark the 75th anniversary of the club. We have been working solidly in background to realise this dream and it culminated in our announcement last year that Dundalk Town Council had granted us 7.5 Acres of land with full planning permission for an outdoor velodrome and BMX track. However following a number of meetings with DKIT we knew that this would move the whole think to a entirely different level and make Dundalk the Cycling Capital of Ireland and it’s all down to the hard work of the committee and club members”.
Having an international velodrome as part of their sporting campus would be a major coup for DKIT and in fact would make them the world’s first educational institution to have such a facility. Its presence would further extend its already excellent sporting pedigree and range of sporting facilities open to attracting students. In conjunction with its sports medicine departments, the Institute could become the premier cycling facility in the world, which would attract many nations and professional cycling teams in their quest for yellow jerseys and gold medals. Following the model which has been recently launched in conjunction with Dundalk FC in soccer, it is envisaged that scholarships could also be offered to cyclists. In addition to the Velodrome the site will also accommodate a full size BMX track and has the potential to incorporate a closed circuit cycling track around the perimeter.