Irvine and Ryan hail Cuchulainn plans to build Ireland’s first indoor velodrome
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Irvine and Ryan hail Cuchulainn plans to build Ireland’s first indoor velodrome

by Shane Stokes at 5:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Track
Structure in JJB building in Dundalk could be operational later this year

Martyn IrvineOne hundred and eighteen years after Harry Reynolds won the world amateur sprint title in Copenhagen and a little under twelve months since Martyn Irvine became the next Irishman to take an elite rainbow jersey on the track, plans have been announced to build what will be the country’s first ever indoor velodrome.

The Cuchulainn cycling club announced Tuesday that it had agreed a deal with the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) to move into the reopened JJB sports complex in Dundalk and, providing the necessary funding is raised soon, that the track could be up and running by September.

The news is a massive boost to Irish cycling which until now had only three outdoor velodromes in Dublin, Belfast and Kanturk. The new facility will be a much higher standard and will enable year-round use by riders of all levels.

World champion Irvine applauded the announcement, which comes eleven months after he gave his backing to Cuchulainn’s push for government support.

“It’s awesome news,” he told VeloNation. “Cuchulainn CC put the hard work in and I was behind them because they had a good driving force. I'm glad to see it come to fruition.”

Last March Irvine accompanied the club when it presented its plans to the Irish Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, seeking funding. He had recently returned from his successful worlds campaign and his presence added considerable weight to the project, which was then based around a different site in Dundalk.

While Ring said the government had no available funding at that point in time, he said that he was broadly supportive of the project. Cuchulainn will this month apply for backing under the government’s Sports Capital Grant scheme. Its chairman Pat O’Shaughnessy said that it hopes to secure between 300,000 and 500,000 euro there. Total costs of the new project will be 1.2 million euro.

Some money has already been raised and the club is hoping that Cycling Ireland will support the plan, perhaps by seeking a small annual levy from its members.

Irvine is clear on the benefits of having an indoor track in Ireland. “It will be a great opportunity to train at home year round, meaning probably less travelling in the long run.” Like other Irish international riders, he has had to spend long periods of time abroad in recent years, with Mallorca being his base until he transferred to the US this season.

Fellow Irish international Caroline Ryan has just taken over as world number one in the individual pursuit and she too applauds the Cuchulainn club’s intention to have a track in place this year.

“At the moment in order to train for major track championships we need to live and train abroad near a velodrome. A velodrome in Ireland would not only be a major boost to myself and my team-mates but more importantly to the young and aspiring athletes that can't travel abroad like we do,” she said.

“A velodrome in Ireland would provide the vital opportunity that they otherwise just wouldn't have.”

Irvine also sees a clear benefit to younger riders, something which should ramp up the pool of talent available for Cycling Ireland to draw future international competitors from.

“The major impact I can see is from the development side of things. Kids less than half my age will be able to ride the track and hopefully will achieve as much as I have at an earlier age,” he said.

“Six, seven and eight year olds can ride in the safety of the track, away from any traffic which is an ever-growing concern.”

They hope that the planned Dundalk track can be the same sort of catalyst for success that the Manchester velodrome was for British Cycling in the 1990s.

Evolution of the project:

The idea of building a velodrome in Dundalk first cropped up at the club’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 2010. A site was originally identified, but the earmarked location then changed to the Hoey’s Lane location in the town. In February of last year the club was given planning permission by Dundalk Town Council to build a 250 metre outdoor velodrome, a 360 metre BMX track and a pump track at Hoey’s Lane, Dundalk.

O’Shaughnessy said that the intention was that the track would eventually be enclosed in a structure, but that it would likely take five years for it to become an indoor venue.

However he told VeloNation this week that the DKIT then completely transformed the club’s plans when it said space could be made available in the JJB building.

JJB buildingThe 190,000 square foot structure had been previously functioning as a multisport arena and sports retail store, but went out of business at the end of 2012. It was left vacant but was purchased by the DKIT last year.

“From when we first floated this project four years ago, DKIT were very keen to support any of the projects we put forward,” said O’Shaughnessy to VeloNation. “This is the third version of the plans. All the while DKIT president Denis Cummins has been very supportive and forward thinking, which has brought us to this juncture. We would have to applaud his vision and foresight.

“The local authority were also huge movers in making this happen.”

O’Shaughnessy said that Cummins contacted him last year and suggested that space might be available in the building. An architect’s study was completed and that concluded that a 250 metre international standard track would fit into the first floor area of the building, which had previously been used for retail.

“It was a big step forward,” he told VeloNation. “Instead of having to build an outdoor track, to then raise further funds to put a roof over it, and wait several years for it to be completed, we were suddenly in a position where we could move into a building that was already constructed.

“In addition to saving a lot of money, it would also be far faster. If we can get the money in place, DKIT would like us to have it up and running by September.”

The previously planned BMX track and pump track will also be constructed near the venue.

Cycling Ireland still weighing up Dundalk versus Abbotstown:

Cycling Ireland CEO Geoff Liffey told VeloNation that the federation welcomes the prospect of having an indoor track in the country.

“Our reaction is positive. We need a velodrome in the country and would welcome one anywhere,” he said. “Dundalk would be a strategic location, given its catchment area to the north and our members in the republic. I’m aware the facility has a lot of potential. Because of that, we welcome the news. We think it is an interesting opportunity.”

The federation had previously hoped to establish its own track in the former Fruitfield factory building in the Tallaght area of Dublin. Negotiations broke down over the lease, though, leading to those plans being derailed.

CI then sought support from the Irish government to consider funding a velodrome in the Abbotstown national sporting campus. These talks are still ongoing, according to Liffey.

“Abbotstown is not dead by any means. That is still something we would look to do,” he said. “We would support whichever project is more sustainable and more feasible in the long run.”

He said that the estimated costs of the Abbotstown velodrome would be seven million euro, with the venue also to be shared with Badminton Ireland. He said that the location in Dublin would be preferable to Dundalk and that there would be greater capacity for spectators, although he accepted that it would take several years before it would be ready.

Liffey also admitted that the government was unlikely to support having two tracks within eighty kilometres of each other. Cycling Ireland would have to decide which project it wanted to put its weight behind.

Whichever one that ultimately is, he is clear on the benefits of an indoor velodrome for the country. “I would see it as benefitting everybody. You can do skills sessions in a controlled, closed environment. You could have corporate days and all sorts of activities. There is quite a big untapped potential. It is a completely different experience to an outdoor velodrome,” he said.

“From a high performance, we can greatly enhance the talent pool that we have. I am convinced that we would win more medals with this kind of facility.”

Aside from his chairman’s road with Cuchulainn, O’Shaughnessy is also a member of Cycling Ireland’s board and has been pushing the federation hard to support the Dundalk project. He argues that it is less expensive and would be operational sooner.

“As a club we are delighted to be a facilitator to make this happen,” he said. “Our only goal was to get a track that would benefit every cyclist in the country. Our geographical position between Dublin and Belfast is a big plus, and so too the fact that eleven of the fifteen biggest clubs in Ireland are within an hour and a half of Dundalk.

“This is hugely significant. I think it is going to benefit not only elite cyclists in Ireland but the sport as a whole. From youth cycling upwards. If we are to complete on the international stage, the first thing we need is an indoor track. A footballer can’t score goals without a ball, and it’s very hard for a track rider to compete well without a velodrome.”

See below for Dundalk Institute of Technology video of the JJB building, the site of the planned velodrome



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