Group plans cycling track at D.C.’s Buzzard Point

A new nonprofit organization plans to build a velodrome — or track cycling arena — on Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington that organizers say will host competitive races and offer free classes for adults and children beginning this summer.

The group, DC Velodrome, has leased a parking lot on V Street SW, just off South Capitol Street, and plans to erect a 166-meter-long, oval-shaped wooden track with 48-degree banked turns.

Recreational road cycling has grown in popularity locally with the addition of miles of bike lanes and creation of a bike-sharing service. Rui A. Ponte, one of the group’s founders, said he would like to see the velodrome broaden that appeal to track racing, particularly with the Summer Olympics approaching.

“Everyone knows about a road bike and a commuter bike, but not that many people in D.C. understand track racing,” he said. “And it’s a great sport.”

Ponte, a Bethesda architect who owns the CycleLife bicycle shop in Georgetown, said the track will host sanctioned racing events but will also hold classes and training sessions for adults and teens who have little or no experience riding on a track. Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), a bicycling enthusiast and triathlete, is on the group’s board of advisers.

The wooden track Ponte and his partners plan to erect is in storage, folded into a barn in Lancaster, Pa., that is owned by one of the group’s co-founders. The Southwest cycling track will be the 27th operating velodrome in the United States, DC Velodrome says. The group will lease space for the track from District-based real estate developer Akridge, which owns much of Buzzard Point.

One major obstacle remains: money. DC Velodrome is launching a fundraising campaign with a goal of about $300,000, about a third of which is needed to assemble the track and the rest of which would afford free programming, with an opening date in late May or early June.

“I’m a firm believer in, you know, field of dreams. If you build it they will come,” Ponte said.

Nationally, track cycling is making a comeback, according to USA Cycling, the organizing body that is recognized by the Olympics. Between 12 and 15 less experienced riders or 24 advanced riders can use the wooden track at once. Races typically feature between 12 and 16 riders, and the track will offer bleachers capable of seating hundreds of spectators.

The velodrome could eventually be joined by a streetcar stop and a soccer stadium for D.C. United, as Akridge has discussed building a new home for the team nearby.

“Locating D.C.’s first velodrome on Buzzard Point is an exciting contribution to the vitality of the neighborhood and the diversity of activities available to the city and the region, while still keeping the site readily available for permanent development,” Akridge President Matt Klein said in a statement.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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