Photo by Jim Graham
Coatesville will soon be home to the National Sports and Events Center, set to include a velodrome, virtual reality gaming center and bistro.
For 15 years, Crosby Wood has maintained his commitment to a “destination project with economic benefit” for beleaguered Coatesville, Chester County’s only city. Now it appears his persistence has paid off. With the necessary push provided by some much-needed state funding, International Development Group, a joint venture between Wood’s New Heritage Properties and a team of developers, is set to complete a 12-month due diligence period on the long-awaited National Sports and Events Center. “Full allocation is $9 million,” says Wood of the figure, which includes a $3.6 million grant and a $5.4 million loan, both for land development, through the state’s Business in Our Sites program.
Wood’s plans for a velodrome—or track cycling arena—first surfaced about 10 years ago. “Early on, I was looking for a community to invest in along the Route 30 corridor, and the focus quickly narrowed to Coatesville,” he says. “Investors consistently struggled to get financing, so we became masters of adaptive reuse, acquiring properties and repurposing them.”
Over time, relationships were built and new partnerships formed. “IDG is now completely aligned with local, regional and state leadership,” Wood says.
The arena project could cost up to $79 million, while providing 350 new jobs (100 permanent) and driving $18.5 million in spending annually after three years. The 245,000-square-foot facility will have 2,500 fixed seats, with a velodrome belt circling a floor maximized for concerts, conventions and sports events. A virtual reality gaming center and a bar and bistro will overlook the track, along with ample meeting space. In fact, less than 25% of the revenue is projected to come from the velodrome. “I like to call the cycling piece the special sauce that takes a regional project and gives it international draw,” says Wood, a Unionville native.
Located in the Flats, a redevelopment district near Coatesville’s historic bridge, the arena could be a key economic stimulant for decades—“if it’s done right,” says James Logan, Coatesville’s city manager.
Under Logan, the city landed the BIOS funding with the support of state Rep. Dan Williams and Sen. Carolyn Comitta. David Chauner, CEO of World Cycling Limited, is one of IDG’s four managing partners. A Harriton High School graduate, he’s a two-time Olympian who’s been inducted to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. Until 2012, he ran single-day cycling races across the country. Chauner and 1976 Olympic cycling coach Jack Simes were the management team that developed the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
“Guys would come from all over to race in front of 3,000 fans every Friday night,” Chauner recalls. “It was the best track in the world at one time.”
In 2012, Chauner moved back to the area, where he met Wood, who was looking for a velodrome site in Chester County. “No one knew what a velodrome was, and there wasn’t a lot of interest in Coatesville,” says Chauner, adding that most bike tracks are built for the Olympics.
Knowing that there would have to be a larger focus to sustain the project, Chauner turned to Sports Facilities Advisory, the Florida-based sports consulting firm involved in Lancaster County’s Spooky Nook Sports, one of the largest convention centers and indoor sports facilities in the country. “That was the missing link,” he says.
Velodrome Development Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the project, is spearheading its own capital campaigns for the arena. Some $250,000 has already been secured, and this winter sees the kickoff of the $12 million Campaign for Champions, with cycling great Greg LeMonde as the honorary chair. Construction on the facility itself should begin in by late 2023 and ideally be finished by the end of the 2024 Olympics. The hope is that the velodrome will become an Olympic and Paralympic training center.
The National Sports and Events Center is among the more than 40 economic projects breathing fresh life into Coatesville these days, including a $65 million train station set for completion in 2025. “The improvements will be a tremendous shot in the arm for the community,” says Logan.