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BTTF#13: Encino Velodrome

Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the affluent and trendy community of Encino. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to sometime in 1961 (actual date unknown) and the flux capacitor is.........fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to the Encino Velodrome at 17301 Oxnard Street in Encino.

A couple of blocks away from the old Edward Everett Horton Ranch estate discussed in the last BTTF post, is the Encino Velodrome quietly tucked away behind the baseball fields and bordering the LA River. A velodrome is essentially an arena for track cycling that typically consists of steeply banked oval tracks with 180 degree circular bends connected by two straights. The Encino Velodrome was conceived by George Garner, Bob Hansing, Jack Kemp, and Charlie Morton in the mid-fifties. These 4 men were able to obtain land from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers located in the Sepulveda Dam Flood Control Basin along with their own seed money and the generous donations of various sponsors, the Velodrome was established in 1961. 

Image courtesy The Encino Velodrome site in 1952 which was all land as part of the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin. On the bottom portion of this image is the former RKO Movie Ranch. 
Image courtesy The Encino Velodrome site in 1972 was fully devleoped including baseball fields and the former RKO Movie Ranch.  
The Encino Velodrome reached its pinnacle during the 60's and 70's with the 1965 and 1968 US National Championchips, 1968 US Olympic Trials, and 1972 & 1973 Grand Prix of the United States (ABC's Wide World of Sports).  

By the 1980's, the Encino Velodrome while still in excellent condition was losing its luster due to competition. According to an LA Times article published on June 17, 1992 by Jeff Meyers, Forgotten But Not Gone: Status of Encino Velodrome Hits Bottom Despite Its Top Condition and the Efforts of Directors:

The Encino Velodrome should have been featured in the movie "Encino Man." It would have provided an ironic counterpoint to the film's story about a caveman who gets defrosted and turns into a Valley dude. In the last 20 years, the once-prominent velodrome has become a dinosaur in the world of cycling, a Valley dud.
Site of the 1968 Olympic trials, the 32-year-old velodrome was once important enough to hold international events that were televised on "Wide World of Sports." But its status and reputation have hit bottom, reaching the depths in 1990 when velodrome officials were unable to raise financing and had to withdraw as hosts of the Junior Nationals, forcing the U.S. Cycling Federation to scramble to find a last-minute replacement site.
The problems with the velodrome have nothing to do with neglect. A nonprofit operation, it is run by a seven-member board of directors, all dedicated, idealistic and unpaid, who have lovingly cared for the facility. In fact, the 250-meter track is probably in better condition now than it was in its heyday.
But while the board has been well-meaning, it has not come close to igniting community support or interest for two decades, resulting in a constant money crunch. Years ago, the velodrome achieved prominence almost by default--it was the only outdoor track in California and one of only three or four in the country--but today it faces competition from 14 tracks, some of which are first-class organizations run by full-time paid staffs.

The article goes on to state that part of the demise is the lack of attention and support that the Encino Velodrome was receiving from the City of L.A. 
But not in L.A. People are jaded, Baum says. Anything less than the Super Bowl is no big deal. "The '84 Olympics was the best ever," said Baum, who was on the board of directors of the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee. "So now, the magic is gone. But in those other cities, they're so thrilled to get something like the trials. The city gets behind it."
However, the site still provides a big benefit to the community despite losing its national appeal. From the LA Times article:
Even with all their talk about TV contracts and major events, velodrome officials have a more altruistic reason for wanting to put the facility on secure financial footing. Its highly regarded junior program, which has introduced hundreds of youngsters to cycling, is the heart of the organization.
"Cycling is tremendous for the youth," Baum said. "We take kids from our gang intervention program in Pacoima, high-risk kids, and when we put them on the track, their new heroes become the racers. Cycling is great for character. A good cyclist has to be dedicated and organized, and if you are, you do well in school.
So lets head back to the future and check out the Encino Velodrome in its current form.

Image courtesy Google Maps

In conclusion, the Encino Velodrome played a prominent and important role since its inception as this was the only track available in California during the 60's and part of three or four in the whole nation. So cyclists the world over would descent into the small community of Encino for practice, meets, and competitions. Over time, the Velodrome lost its luster but still plays a vital role for future cyclists in the San Fernando Valley and nearby areas.

You can check out more Back to the Future series here.


Forgotten But Not Gone: Status of Encino Velodrome Hits Bottom Despite Its Top Condition and the Efforts of Directors LA Times on June 17, 1992 by Jeff Meyers

Encino Velodrome

Wikipedia - Velodrome

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

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