SOUTH CHICAGO — The South Chicago Velodrome has been saved, with racing set to resume this summer, according to activists fighting to save the track.
Marcus Moore, who’s led the six-month campaign to reopen the bowled wooden track, said earlier this week that a lease has been signed with the owner of the velodrome, and the remaining pieces are now falling in place to reopen the track.
“You’re not 100 percent until you have the contracts in hand, but [the velodrome is] in a much better spot,” Moore said.
The lease for the track at 8615 S. Burley Ave. was the key deal that needed to be struck before the owner of the land, U.S. Steel, would unlock the gates topped with barbed wire and before insurance companies would sign off on races.
“It’s possible we could wrap both of those things up this week,” Moore said. “Then we’ll have access to the track again.”
Sam Cholke says racing used to be extremely popular in Chicago:
Moore said that would allow for a summer start date for the high school racing league that wooed an anonymous donor, who agreed to contribute $10,000 in April and persuaded the track’s owner, V-Worldwide, to agree to a six-month lease for the track.
"He's still got a challenge. He's got significant funds to raise and a program to get going," said Dale Hughes, founder of V-Worldwide. "But I think he has people that will really step up."
Moore said he has more than 50 high school students from 17 schools interested in the league, but it’s been an uphill climb to hold onto that interest without access to the track.
The former owner, Emanuele Bianchi, who in 2011 saw the track as the opening act of a grander vision of a $45 million sports complex around the niche sport, walked away from the project in September and locked the gates behind him.
Moore said he was confident he could keep the track in the black, with youth programs in place and a regular schedule of races.
“A track like this doesn’t cost that much compared to the impact it can have on the community,” Moore said. “But its long-term success all depends on the greater community really liking what we’re doing.”
He said the next big project would be to find a permanent home and put a roof over the outdoor track so races can continue into the cold months.
It’s not clear whether Moore, who works a day job running the Yojimbo’s Garage bike shop, or someone else would lead that effort.
“I’m happy to do it as long as it needs to be done,” Moore said. “My dream is for this to be run by people who are really good at this, and then I can step aside.”
Moore said right now his focus is on finalizing the last of the paperwork, continuing to fundraise to pay off the lease and getting young riders on the track over the summer to learn to ride on the banked curves.
A campaign to raise $100,000 toward paying off the track is ongoing on GoFundMe.
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