Greenpoint could get a high-tech bike-racing track to train the next generation of Olympians — if the city and the MTA ever stop spinning their wheels.
Inspired by a $7-million design competition for projects along Newtown Creek, Williamsburg-based Affinity Cycles owner Jason Gallacher and national cycling champion Andrew LaCorte have put together a proposal to construct such a first-class track, called a “velodrome” in some circles, on a city-owned lot on Commercial Street.
The facility would include not only the high-banked racing surface, but paths for BMX racers and a cycling training facility.
Gallacher estimates that constructing an outdoor velodrome on Commercial Street would cost about $500,000 — though it would take another $3 and $4 million to build an enclosed arena to house it for all-year use.
“Our goal is for this to be a center for cycling, not only for track racing, but for casual cycling,” said Gallacher, who makes bikes in his Grand Street shop. “In a perfect world, the project will end up in Greenpoint.”
The city must first convince the MTA to decamp from the site it has leased for half the decade — negotiations that have gone in circles.
But in a sign of hope, the City Parks Foundation has quietly begun to lobby MTA officials to move the bus lot from Greenpoint. And Gallacher said he has received encouragement from the Parks Department about the site.
“We’re in a city where the cycling culture is booming leaps and bounds,” said Gallacher. “For the city not to have anything like this would be ridiculous.”
But Community Board 1 member Dewey Thompson questioned whether a velodrome needed to occupy prime waterfront space.
“It could be really cool, but right now, 65 Commercial St. is in its preliminary designs as a soccer field,” said Thompson. “Could a velodrome fit next to it? That would have to be figured out with the community.”
The sport of track cycling has existed in New York City for nearly a century, and was among the most-popular spectator sports, behind the then two-word sport known as base ball. Its popularity peaked in the 1930s with six-day races at Madison Square Garden, a Manhattan venue.
Races are a high-paced contact sport where cyclists throw a lot of elbows and crash into each other at speeds upwards of 45 miles an hour.
But the number of cycling tracks in the city has dwindled over the years. Only one, the antiquated Kissena Velodrome in Queens, remains.
Cycling athletes, including several Olympians, have trained at that facility, but Gallacher and LaCorte say the track is outdated, in shambles, and difficult to get to.
They should know.
LaCorte has won several national championships, most recently the U.S. Masters in 2009, racing on Gallacher’s custom-made Affinity frames, while leading a team of rising cycling stars including 2012 Olympic hopefuls Stephanie Torres and Dave Espinoza.
Within two years, Team Affinity accumulated eight national titles and four Ecuadorian titles, which are even tougher to get.
“We decided we wanted to put together a powerhouse team,” said Gallacher. “We picked up some strategic up-and-comers, and they’ve come to life done really well.”