Caird Park: back from the brink

Monday, 17th September, 2012


Three years ago almost to the day, I received notification from the Dundee City Council that there would be no major investment in the Caird Park Velodrome as it was deemed to be in ‘a good and fair condition’ and there was no money available. This followed lobbying over the previous four to five years, since the formation of Scotland’s first Go-Ride accredited club, the Discovery Junior Cycling Club, to try and get the facility upgraded.

Following this, I wrote or emailed all the local MP’s, MSP, MEP’s and Councillors as well as the First Minister and Sports Minister. This certainly made a few heads turn and the Council sit up and take more notice. I know this had had some effect as feedback was given that my name had been mentioned at various SportScotland meetings etc. Other than a box file full of notes over the next two years, I’ve lost count of the number of meetings held and time involved, with support from Scottish Cycling, especially Mark Young. British Cycling facilities Officers, Dave Cockram and Patrick Flannagan have also been involved in the specification of the project, not without a lot of headaches for them on the way. During the process I’ve worked on two applications to SportScotland to source help with funding and slowly see the amount the Dundee City Council were to put in increase along with the project costs as it grew a few arms and legs, well lights anyway.

The whole process has been eye opening, seeing how these projects progress, how many people are involved and the headaches of pulling it all together. Just over twelve months ago I was told the project would start in September (2011), then November, then not until spring 2012 to avoid frosts etc. Finally earlier this year I received a call from the Courier in Dundee asking me about how I felt now the project had been approved. Work was set to begin on a five week turn around in March.

The work in removing the fence started at the end of February. Very quickly the inside edging and external concrete ring beam for the fence were dug and laid, as well as a metre deep sump around the inside of the track, to help with drainage. Once these works were complete, a specialist tarmac company SpadeOak made an appearance to lay the surface. Blink and you missed it, less than two days to prepare and lay two layers of tarmac.

All that remained were the lines and the fence…… The lines weren’t a major issue, but the fence just kept going back and back and back. Finally in June it went up, only for issues to be identified. No where near as bad as the rumours emanating from Meadowbank, but still needing sorted. The last bit in the jigsaw, the gate gaps were sorted out just before the Autumn Meeting.

It was fantastic to see a full programme (very very full) of racing, with three British Cycling Series and 14 Scottish cycling Championships all in the one day. A big thank you to all the helpers and officials for pulling it off.
For me personally it’s marked the end of one era and the start of a new future for the track in Dundee, especially with the recent influx of new starts to the club.

My association with cycling goes back to the World Championships in Leicester in 1970, when my parents took me to see Hugh Porter take a rare Gold for great Britain in the pursuit, as well as seeing the likes of Eddy Merckx on the roads around Mallory Park. Other than watching my brother race, my own involvement didn’t really start until I moved up to Scotland. First taking photo’s on the Perth road, then as organiser and a little bit of racing. That was until 2004 when I was knocked over by a lorry, putting me off cycling all together, giving all my kit away and ready to leave the sport.

I then got a call from SC President Iain Sinclair, asking me to talk to Gary Willis about setting up a Go-Ride club at Caird Park. I’ve always struggled to say no, but with no real enthusiasm went along with the meeting. From little acorns and some help from local club volunteers, only John Bremner left from the original batch, the DJCC was set up. Seeing the enthusiasm of the kids rekindled my flame and my enthusiasm came back. Over the years the club has received support from the Braveheart fund, allowing the club to help put on events and increase the numbers of youths racing. Through the fund and Chris Feltham from Cycle World, we are also lucky enough to have a motorbike to help training and racing at Caird Park. Now I am  more involved than ever. It was a pleasure to ask Iain to come to Caird park for the first meeting on the new track and to present the medals last Sunday.

My final thanks go to my parents for introducing me to the best sport in the world, for being excellent roll models and the best supportive parents anyone could ask for. My dad died six years ago, with my mother passing away in July this year, missing the chance to share in British cycling history, with Brad winning the Tour de France, Air Chris and their team mates performing magnificently at the Olympics and Paralympics. I don’t mind admitting I shed many a tear. They are gone, but never, never forgotten. Thank you.

MARTIN HARRIS





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