SBJ/February 15-21, 2016/Leagues and Governing Bodies

World Cycling League ready for another go

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After a false start in 2015, the World Cycling League is ready to try again to revive velodrome bicycle racing in the U.S.

The startup league and AEG are selling tickets to a “world premiere” on March 18-19 at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, Calif. The event will act as a showcase to possible sponsors, investors, velodrome owners, fans and media partners, said Dave Chauner, World Cycling League CEO and co-founder.

Cycling remains a niche spectator sport in the U.S. despite its growth as a fitness pastime, but the WCL braintrust thinks a highly produced, indoor series in a league format could change that.

“The concept of the WCL came out of the recognition that the sport really needed a more sustainable business model for one thing, and also needed to be presented in a more fan-friendly way,” said Chauner, a two-time Olympic track cyclist.

Six seven-person, mixed-gender teams have been established to compete in March: Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, Mexico and Dublin — all places with velodromes or plans to build one. The international teams chose their own riders, but the WCL selected the domestic riders.

The WCL hopes to launch a season this fall with those teams competing at the Carson velodrome. Within three years, league owners want a 12-team international league organized into three conferences, each anchored by a velodrome, Chauner said. Worldwide, there are 80 indoor velodromes in 32 countries.

A March premiere event will be held at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, Calif.
Photo by: STUBHUB CENTER.COM / VELO
Originally, the league planned to launch last year in Pittsburgh, but those plans collapsed when the Island 200 velodrome encountered severe construction delays. Site owner Bob Gottlieb is no longer working with the WCL, Chauner said.

The WCL then turned to AEG to host and help promote the March premiere at the Carson velodrome, which is adjacent to StubHub Center and currently runs about six ticketed events per year. Operations director Adam Duvendeck said the facility is eager to help the WCL and has given the league first right of refusal on several dates for a winter 2016-17 season.

As they regrouped, Chauner’s former partner and Olympic teammate John Vande Velde dropped out of the ownership group amid strategic disagreements.

The current investor team includes Chauner, New York entrepreneur John Nelson, DLA Piper partner Chuck Baker and Rick Mayer, a Connecticut private equity investor.

The league has secured KOM Sports Marketing to develop the WCL’s brand. KOM President Steve Brunner, a longtime cycling promoter, believes velodrome cycling can thrive as a made-for-TV production by simplifying the Olympic competition model, playing up the personalities of the riders and using advanced in-venue production.

“We want to make this more like NASCAR or roller derby on a velodrome,” Brunner said, while retaining its athletic integrity. Atomic Design and Windfall Productions will produce the premiere event.

Each meet will pit six teams against each other in a series of 12 races, Chauner said, with each race contributing points toward a final score. The distances range from a six-rider, 500-meter sprint to a 24-rider, 12,000-meter endurance race, with the overall meet lasting about 2 1/2 hours.

World Cycling League teams, all centrally owned by the league, will pay riders $1,200 standard contracts and compete for $15,000 prize purses, Chauner said.

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