For first-time viewers, a race on a velodrome might just look like a pack of bicyclists riding in oblong laps without actually getting anywhere. But David Chauner knows that with enough coaching and time on the steep, banked track, at least some of the riders will go places.
Bicycle racing punched his ticket to see the world, sending him to events in Colombia, Italy and Canada, and two Olympics. Chauner, 74, later paid this forward by helping to train more than 100 national champions on a velodrome in the Lehigh Valley. That’s why he’s excited to have served as a propellant behind a massive new development in nearby Coatesville, Pennsylvania, that will feature, as a centerpiece, the first permanent indoor velodrome in the eastern United States.
“My goal has always been to try to popularize cycling,” Chauner says. “From when I first started, it’s always been sort of a backwoods sport. Now, obviously, it’s grown a lot since I started—but our answer has always been we’re going to create a proof of concept here.”
And at a cost of nearly $80 million, the National Sports and Events Center will be far more than just a magnet for cyclists. Ideally positioned along the Eastern Seaboard, the NSEC is lower-case D democratic in its embrace of various sports and disciplines.
Spanning 245,000 square feet of interior space, the project includes a 2,500-seat sports and entertainment arena, a trackside bistro and 12,000 square feet of related retail space. Beyond that, a 40,000-square-foot field house will harbor an athletic performance center, multiple sports courts, a Boys and Girls Club, a family entertainment center, meeting rooms and more.
True to its name, NSEC’s beehive of functional space will be home base for a vast range of activities, including e-sports events, concerts, conventions and graduations. And as a “micro version of the Wells Fargo Center” in Philadelphia, says Crosby Wood, it will be outfitted to host countless sporting events. Wood is principal and project manager of IDG Development and managing member of New Heritage Properties, as well as one of Chauner’s longtime friends. He says kids and adults will flock there to compete in a vast range of sports and activities, including lacrosse, pickleball, volleyball, basketball and countless one-off Olympic sports.
The developers are planning a groundbreaking on the 24-acre site this summer with an eye toward opening the facility early in 2025. “It’s been an adventure, to say the least,” Wood says. “It’s an exciting project with countless moving parts.”
Growing up on Philadelphia’s Main Line, Chauner was bit by the cycling bug at an early age, joining the Main Line Milers, a cycling club started by his older brother and some friends, as a junior (12 and under) member. As a teenager, he qualified for the Century Road Club of America, one of the nation’s oldest racing organizations. He eventually earned spots on the 1968 and 1972 U.S. Olympic cycling teams and earned six national championship medals.
After retiring from racing in the 1970s, he became a founding director of the outdoor velodrome at what is now the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, where he helped create programs to develop young riders. He later went on to create and promote prestigious international road races, but his path kept leading back to velodromes. He’s now CEO of World Cycling Limited, a business designed to develop track cycling as a made-for-TV sport. Chauner dreamed of an indoor track that wouldn’t be subject to weather and seasonal closings.
“If it can be done up there [in Trexlertown], it can be done here, and particularly since everything has advanced, and the opportunity to promote the story is much greater than it was back then,” Chauner says.
To the uninitiated, a velodrome is an odd-looking piece of sports infrastructure. With its banked walls and oval shape, it resembles a shallow, oblong bowl. Cyclists compete on single-speed bikes with no brakes, using the embankments to slow down. Participants range from elite racers competing on a global stage to Paralympic racers to locals trying out the 200-meter track for the first time in development programs.
The concept dates back more than two decades to when Chauner met Wood, a Chester County neighbor, at an equestrian event. Chauner energized Wood on the idea with stories of wildly popular indoor cycling scenes scattered throughout Europe, South America and Asia. But they struggled over time to convince lenders that a velodrome could provide a self-sustaining business. While cycling is a popular recreational activity in the States, track racing is still a niche sport.
This type of project represents the next generation of prosperity.
“It’s very challenging because you have this pioneering vision, but you have to go to Europe to see what Dave is envisioning here,” Wood says. “Professional cyclists in Europe are household names, and we just don’t have any here.”
The vision for NSEC finally took hold about three years ago. The key was to build a larger sports complex around the velodrome to ensure a constant churn of activity. Chauner’s dream is finally coming true—but Wood says the national velodrome only accounts for about 3% of the arena’s total budget.
Whatever ultimately serves as the primary attraction, the project holds the potential to be transformational for a long-struggling area. The facility will become the largest commercial property in Coatesville’s Qualified Economic Zone—a substantial new economic engine with the city’s iconic High Bridge looming in the background. It’s a big step forward for the Flats, an underprivileged community in a county otherwise flush with prosperity.
NSEC is projected to generate approximately 350 jobs, with about 100 of them permanent, the developers say. The 24-acre site off Route 82 will be close to a train station now under construction, and could provide a steady influx of economic activity. In addition to a $75 million investment in Coatesville, the facility is projected to drive $18.5 million annually in new direct spending after three years of operation, Wood says.
It will also provide a community gathering place. There will be dedicated space for youth and school programs, including a collaboration with the Coatesville Area School District and regional and national organizations to develop youth sports, along with fitness and wellness programming. And in contrast to the big-city arena, the NSEC is accessible to underserved suburban populations. There will also be opportunities for restaurant and retail development at the site, including for small-business owners.
“For the city of Coatesville,” says Wood, “this type of project represents the next generation of prosperity.”
With a steady influx of shows, conventions and competitions, there will be plenty happening while Chauner uses his contacts and reputation to try to turn the national velodrome into an international drawing card. Since word began spreading of the NSEC’s development, he’s been receiving calls from people all around the United States who are interested in building their own velodrome. Chauner believes the Coatesville project has a chance to pull track cycling into the sports mainstream the way only a crown-jewel project can. “There’s a lot of interest and a lot of activity, and we think it’s going to grow dramatically,” he says.
The velodrome will also serve as world-training and competition headquarters for the TeamTrak Cycling League, a racing organization that Chauner hopes will grow into what Major League Soccer has meant to that sport in this country. “Once the cycling becomes a little more mainstream, I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for kids to get involved,” Chauner says, “and then to move on to a professional career.”
If you build it, they will race—that’s long been Chauner’s philosophy. Now he’ll finally have a chance to see that vision come to life.