Fixed gear racing at its finest will be on display at the 2015 Pam-Am games in Toronto… or more specifically Milton. The 250 meter oval with a seating capacity of up to 2500 will host the track cycling events bringing in countries from across the Pan-American region. Fixie fans have likely heard the news already but it is important to take a look at how exactly we arrived at this point and what it means moving forward.
The velodrome overcame issues of financing and location after settling in Milton. With the communities of Vaughan and Hamilton turning it away citing cost concerns it looked increasingly likely that a temporary stadium would be built in Toronto, only to be torn down after the games. While the cost would have been lower than building a proper stadium the lasting effects would have been non-existent.
As municipal politicians in the small suburban town west of Toronto began to examine the feasibility of the stadium a concerned taxpaying base began to voice their opinions. It was around that time that members of the cycling community stepped in with the “Make it Happen” campaign. Headlined by the CEO of Mattamy Homes private citizens committed to donating 14 million of the 56 million dollar project enough to convince municipal councilors that the project should go forward.
The impact of this crowd sourcing campaign will be felt not only the town of Milton but the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area for years. On a micro level the town will receive a state of the art community space that will boost recreation opportunities for young and old alike. More people will be exposed to the spectacle and excitement of fixed gear track racing not only from the events held during the Pan-Am Games but through the opportunity Milton will have to host events in the future.
On a more macro the exposure to world-class racing will encourage more people to take up biking, fixed gear or otherwise. Canadian athletes will now have a place to train and youth will have a place to try out the sport. An easy comparison to make is the impact of the Olympic Oval in Calgary has had on speed skating.
Perhaps most importantly the legacy of having a true monument to cycling in Ontario will raise the profile of bike culture. The direct impact of that may be tough to predict but the significance of it should not be understated. Maybe it is more public and political appetite for bike lanes in urban areas, maybe an increased focus on increasing public transit accessibility to cyclists travelling longer distances. Maybe it is a burgeoning sales quarter for online fixed gear bike shops that rhyme with Stegal.
The criticisms against the velodrome are founded completely in financial concerns specifically that of the nebulous ‘taxpayer’. At the end of the day though, where do those concerns stack up against our health and our happiness?
Let us know what you think.