Wish I felt better about this velodrome thing

Ogden has a web site promoting its newest idea for a Field House/waterpark/cycling track, whatever the heck it is. You can check it out here (click).

There’s not a lot there, but I found the link to the feasibility study (click!) interesting because I love reading feasibility studies as the exercise in cleverly disguised guessing and wishing they usually are.

This one is no exception.

It’s very thoroughly done. It looks at comparable markets, and comparable facilities, and has oodles of numbers, but search though you will there is one thing missing: Any certainty that the project will succeed.

Oh, the project might succeed, and it would be nice if it did, but there’s no certainty, or even an indication that it is a reasonably safe bet.

For example, is there anyone around here who will use it? Well, there’s a huge market, as indicated by some very pretty maps, and there are comparable markets where such things succeed or at least do business, but then again, what does that mean?

It means that people in Carson City, Calif., and Boulder Colorado support velodromes. Now: How many people think the good people of Boulder and Carson City are anything like Utahns? May I see a show of hands?

See — that is the problem.

This sort of projected use and profitability study is always a guessing game. I’m not saying this one is wrong, just that I’m leery of it, especially in light of the dicey national economic situation. I bet you anything UTA had similarly rosy projections for FrontRunner, and they may still come true, especially if the economy ever recovers and the price of gasoline goes up again. 

Then again, maybe the economy won’t recover. Nothing else about Utah’s economy matches the rest of the nation’s, and I fail to see why our use of recreational facilities should. However, a Republican House of Representatives is about to start slicing and dicing the national economy — 15 percent cuts in federal employment will hurt Utah, and taking even $55 billion out of domestic spending is going to hit.

Top of Utah’s whole business model for the last 60-plus years has been to attract federal work, and this model has succeeded to the extent that Top of Utah is very vulnerable to massive cuts in federal employment that even our own representatives in Washington are promising very soon.

God forbid peace breaks out and the Air Force cuts back.

Then there’s the whole question of how this will be funded. As the report shows, and as my pal Dan Schroeder has enjoyed criticizing, a huge chunk of the funding for the building of the facility will come from taxes. The entities donating those revenues are hardly flush and will have to get the cash somewhere, either by cutting existing services or raising their own taxes.

Why must the taxpayers subsidize such a thing, when similar subsidies of local golf courses, museums and even recreational facilities are always criticized as wasteful?

The study does say one velodrome, the Home Depot Center in Carson City, CA., was built entirely with private money. Interestingly, that is the only one I can see that the feasability study says is breaking even. Most velodromes, it says, operate at a loss (subsidy), which I presume will be provided by the other venues? Or other governments?

The one in Colorado, for example, is operated by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which means it is not meant to make money and almost certainly doesn’t. 

And grazing through the proposed budget of the whole facility, I don’t see where it pays back the millions that the taxpayers will be putting in to it. I presume that is considered a donation?

Of course, most recreational facilities built by local governments are meant to attract business for other local businesses, and the payoff is in increased sales taxes and business growth. That’s why a lot of cities build golf courses — businessmen play golf, or at least used to, to the point it was a given that you couldn’t attract business to town if you didn’t have 18 holes handy, preferably with a well-stocked 19th hole. Do bankers ride bicycles in velodromes?

Much about this field house/velodrome thing feels based on the “If we build it they will come” philosophy of sports development.

That may work in baseball movies, but in real life it’s left us with huge empty fields and blocks of run-down boarded up homes where an Ogden River Parkway Development is going to spring up any day now (Bingham Cyclery looks awful lonely over there) and huge empty blocks of condo units where The Junction is going to be full of businesses and residences and a huge new hotel any day now.

Then again, maybe there are a lot of businesses out there run by people who are saying “Gosh, I wish I could find a small city near mountains with a velodrome to locate my business that employes 10,000 people locally in jobs paying $40,000 a year.”

As the feasibility study shows, it could happen, but is it a safe bet?

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10 Responses to Wish I felt better about this velodrome thing

  1. Al says:

    Raise your hand if before reading Charles’ post you had any idea that Carson City, CA, has a velodrome. I suggest that some sub-set of that population will care a whit about Ogden having one, and that the size of that population should be a fiery red flag waving in the face of the idea to make a velodrome part of a downtown development anchor.

    You know how on the web site they have to put in parentheses that a velodrome is a cycling track? There’s another red flag.

    • laytonian says:

      Another red flag:

      Carson’s population may be comparable, BUT it’s only 13 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
      That means there’s a potential audience of multi-millions lining up to use the Carson velodrome.
      Carson’s wikipedia page:

      Another red flag: While Little Mayor proclaims Ogden “the outdoor adventure capital”, isn’t it illogical to propose another INDOOR facility? The Junction? That’s all indoor. This velodrome/field house. All indoor.

      Outside of bringing in a very few teeny-tiny sports related companies (who have their desks indoors inside offices and their items indoors inside warehouses), what’s really different in the past few years, about “outdoor” Ogden?

      If the Olympics didn’t do it, what will?

      I’m ignoring that op-ed of last week, that recommended (alongside more Mormon influence) a Mayan restaurant be put in Ogden. Read the reviews of THAT place (which has had its failings many times), and you’ll see they’re as bad as La Caille. I hope that wasn’t written by Little Mayor’s secret braintrust. Sounded like it.

  2. Dave J says:

    I think most visitors of Ogden will be asking, “what the heck is a Velodrome?” Godfrey has done a lot of good for Ogden but this Velodrome sounds like a waste of money. I don’t see businesses coming to Ogden just because Ogden has a Velodrome.

  3. Stephen Cook says:

    Nice bit of writing.

  4. tom says:

    Mr. “T”

    You simply make too much sense with this article.

    None of it will ever take hold in the starry eyed Godfreyite movement.

  5. Dan S. says:

    Careful what kinda folks you pal around with!

  6. rulon black says:

    If the facilities at the veledrome are exercise related and basically appeal to the younger fit exercise crowd why the need for additional parking? Why not park further away and get more free exercise by walking a short additional distance to the veledrome? Its not like the school district can afford to give away money to fund this disaster. Why not simply use the monies we were promised to be generated by the Junction?

  7. PH says:

    This sounds to me like a mega million dollar boondoggle for a small group of developer and politician buddies. They sure are pushing hard without real foundation.

    Why does Ogden not take care of what’s broken? Or what’s already started and not finished?

    Oh yeah, not enough money to be made…

    • Bob Becker says:

      You wrote: “This sounds to me like a mega million dollar boondoggle for a small group of developer and politician buddies.”

      Yup. It certainly does.

  8. Youtube.Com says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very
    long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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