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Cycling centre plan hits snag[]

KEVIN TUTTY - The Press , Last updated 05:00 14/12/2010

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A plan to establish a national cycling centre of excellence in Christchurch is striking head winds.

Sparc, the national funding body for sport, wants to establish the centre of excellence somewhere in New Zealand, a centre similar to that set up for rowing at Lake Karapiro near Cambridge.

Sparc will subsidise the centre dollar for dollar up to $7 million, and a working group was established in Canterbury to try to bring the centre to Christchurch, and ideally, based at QEII.

The biggest cost for the centre would be a velodrome, with a price tag between $15m and $20m.

Sparc has since issued a "request for proposals" for interested centres and require proposals to be with them by February 11 next year with a view to having the velodrome in operation by 2012.

To be established at QEII Park, the velodrome would need the support of the Christchurch City Council and John Filsell, the manager of recreation and sports for the council, said the centre is not part of the council's long-term plan. The earliest it could be added would be June 2012, the date Sparc wants the building operational.

It is believed three other centres – Auckland, Palmerston North and Hastings – are interested in the proposal.

Without funding from council the working group will have to find the finance from other sources, probably gaming trusts or wealthy donors.

Darron Charity, a spokesman for the group preparing the bid for Christchurch, said the city was the ideal location for several reasons.

"QEII would be the jewel in the crown for the centre. Bike New Zealand already has its offices at QEII, it is 15 minutes from an international airport which is important because cyclists have a lot of gear to transport which can be a huge logistical cost.

"Christchurch also has the other requirements for the centre of excellence, roads for training, a BMX track and a mountain bike course."

A branch of the New Zealand Academy of Sport is also established at QEII which provides athlete support.

Invercargill is the only centre in New Zealand with an indoor velodrome, but it does not meet Sparc specifications.

The centre of excellence facility must meet UCI (the international cycling body) standard 1 requirements allowing it to host major international events.

Charity said the velodrome would be a multisport complex.

"The cycling high performance programme would only need the facility for 30 per cent of the year. The rest of the time it can be used by clubs, schools and the public.

"The plan would also be to put four netball courts in the centre of the track."

Charity said the working group's research suggested the facility could generate more than $1.5 million in income a year, which would support a loan.

"The facility would have a lifespan of 50 years and the last 30 of those could be loan-free."

To try to keep alive Christchurch's chances of being the site for the centre the working group has spoken to MPs and businessmen to gather support for the proposal.

"The project has almost stalled so we need to get the community and businesses behind us to make the project happen. It really needs a visionary to pick the project up and run with it," said Charity.

"We don't want to let this opportunity slip through our fingers. We only have to months to get that support."

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