• Despite oits relative youth the Dunc Gray Velodrome is filled with memories and nostalgia for Sydney track cyclists. (Getty)Source: Getty
The Dunc Gray velodrome, built for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, is in danger of being pulled down by local government with serious ramifications for track cycling in New South Wales.
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Cycling Central
13 Dec 2016 - 12:12 PM  UPDATED 13 Dec 2016 - 6:55 PM

The council will take “operational responsibility” for the 250 metre, 3000 seat Velodrome, from current lease holder the Bankstown Sports Club, in 2019.

The big issue focussing council minds are the ongoing operational costs, estimated at $400K plus needed capital works of $1 million to keep the facility in good condition over the next four years.

"Unfortunately, track cycling is a very small sport that requires a very large investment in the venue that you use for it," Canterbury-Bankstown administrator, Richard Colley told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"There are a number of options … ranging from a 'do-nothing through' to a modification of it, through to the nth degree - which is demolition."

While demolition is a final option, the possibility of the Dunc Gray Velodrome going the way of the one built for the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games remains.

There the boards were pulled up in 1989 and the venue repurposed as a Biodome, lasting just 13 years as a Velodrome. The lost value to Canadian track cycling was only replaced in 2015 when a new elite facility was built in Milton, Ontario (less than an hour from Toronto) in time for the Pan-American Games.

This was always possible as one of the significant fixed pieces of infrastructure built outside the Olympic precinct and not supported by the state government, unlike the Archery Centre, Sydney International Regatta, Centre and the Sydney International Equestrian Centre.

Council requested financial support from the state government but none was offered. Interestingly, the recently forced council amalgamations mean the greater Canterbury-Bankstown Council now supports two Velodromes, including the outdoor facility in Tempe, which is unsuitable for elite track cycling or talent development.

Standing outside of Sydney Olympic Park at Bass Hill has left the Velodrome as an effective white elephant, without a fuller context and isolated from its true history. If it had been placed in the Olympic precinct it would benefit from state government support and would have been more central to the rest of the city with well-supported transport links.

Close watchers of the events leading up to Sydney 2000 always saw this as a possibility. At the time there were concerns expressed over its siting and that it would eventually succumb to the developer's hammer.

The original sin for that can be traced back to the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), with rumoured political considerations and machinations of the time a factor in the final siting decision.

The ramifications for elite track cycling in New South Wales will be devastating. If Dunc Gray goes then so too goes the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) track program. If you’re a talented young rider interested in track then you will have to leave Sydney, and the sport effectively dies in this state.

Also lost would be a highly developed Masters track scene, one of the best in the world.

Despite Australia not meeting its Rio 2016 Olympic Games cycling targets, track, with its many disciplines, remains an important sport in the Australian Sports Commission medal calculations. Removing this country’s biggest state by population and economic output will only make reaching set goals harder.

Even if saved the issues surrounding the Velodrome remain. Dunc Gray's positioning relative to the rest of Sydney remains poor, with local community support and regular track events needed to make it sustainable economically key points to address if it is to remain a functioning cycling facility.

If we go by the Canadian example, and Dunc Gray is repurposed or redeveloped, it may then take decades before this state would revisit the possibility of a new Velodrome to replace it.

The solution may lie in a simultaneous council redevelopment of both Tempe and Dunc Gray for other purposes and a brand new Velodrome of a more modest scale built somewhere else in Sydney, but the will to do so in the current New South Wales economic and political climate probably does not exist.

Of course, the demise of Dunc Gray would be another nail in the coffin for cycling in Sydney, with road riders already being squeezed by poor infrastructure and increasing traffic intensity.

In that event, New South Wales cyclists and their interests would again be the losers.