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Cycle Tourism

The Velodrome moves forward

I must admit, when I heard that Milton was looking to build a Velodrome for the 2015 PanAm Games, my first thought was “Monorail!” The whole thing sounded like an enormous white elephant – another orphaned Hamilton project championed by certain Milton councillors as a way to garner headlines, much like their ill-advised flirtation with the “Milton Ti-Cats“.

However, having reviewed the preliminary plan put together by Town staff and presented to Council last night, I’m now supporting the project.

The plan is really quite innovative in that it won’t cost taxpayers one extra cent. This seems impossible, but here’s how it breaks down:

Total project capital cost: $40 million (reduced from $44 million)
Local share: 44%, or $17.6 million
Site servicing/parking: $2.2 million
Total local cost: $19.8 million

Of that local cost, staff propose that funding be broken down as follows:

Pledged Donations: $7.0M (from Mattamy – already secured)
Sponsorship: $2.0M
Milton Education Village Partner: $2.5M (from reserves until Laurier campus is confirmed)
Fund Raising Campaign: $3.0M (we raised $2M for the arts centre very easily)
In-Kind Capital: $1.5M (already have commitments from numerous suppliers)

That leaves $3.8 million to be covered by the Town of Milton. That’s still a lot, but here’s the clever part: it’s money we’ve already planned to spend. That’s because the velodrome will have space for three indoor gymnasiums that were originally going to be part of a planned Sherwood Survey community facility – a facility that will be funded largely through development charges. The only difference will be locating the gyms in the velodrome instead of the new rec centre.

Again: this is money we’re spending anyway.

The same approach applies to the operating costs. PanAm is setting up a Legacy Fund to finance a big chunk of the ongoing expenses for these facilities after the Games are done. The rest will be financed from the same sources that would have otherwise paid for running the Sherwood gymnasiums.

Even the money for the full business plan, which councillor Maboeuf has balked at, will come from the slots fund and not from taxpayers.

As for the benefits, I’ve gotten a whole new perspective on that as well thanks to my participation in the recent London Bike Summit. A large portion of that day-long event was devoted to the community benefits of cycling tourism. Several presenters noted the hugely successful Velo Quebec program that has seen a huge return on their sizable investment in cycling infrastructure and cycle tourism promotion.

Milton is already a mecca for cyclists and cycling competitions, thanks to the challenges of the Niagara Escarpment. Having one of only two indoor velodromes in the province and becoming the home of the Canadian Cycling Team would further cement our role as the Cycling Capital of Canada. This will benefit us not only in terms of tourism and tourist-related businesses, but also in attracting larger firms that want to locate somewhere where their employees can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and high quality of life.

I encourage you all to read the report in full and then let us know what you think.

UPDATE: Here’s a brief bit of coverage from CHCH, with quotes from Rick Malboeuf and Mike Cluett. And BTW, if anything has convinced me that this plan is financially sound, it’s the support of the very fiscally conservative Cluett.



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