Monday, October 31, 2016
A New Argument For Park Site O
When the WCA announced last Thursday that Milwaukee County would not allow the Halloween Cyclocross Classic to run at soggy Washington Park, some racers wondered why the organizers immediately canceled the event. There was another option: Mitchell Airport Park is the backup venue for Milwaukee-area races. Why wasn’t the race relocated rather than canceled?
At least part of the answer is that Mitchell Airport Park isn’t a very good option. It’s really just a field, almost completely flat and almost devoid of trees. Any cyclocross course there would be purely a creation of posts and tape, a labor-intensive setup yielding uninspiring results. The park has no buildings, no electricity, no off-street parking, and very little adjacent on-street parking. A race promoter would have to bring in portable toilets, electric generators, and some kind of tent/pavilion to shelter the registration workers and race officials. With most races already operating on extremely thin margins, nobody is going to accept those extra costs. To cancel a race will always make more financial sense than to relocate to Mitchell Airport Park.
For the Madison-area races, Trek’s corporate headquarters in Waterloo is the backup venue. That’s not just private land, it’s also a permanent cyclocross course … more-or-less. By using familiar lines, setup wouldn’t be as labor-intensive and the resulting course would be more than satisfactory. (If it was good enough for defending world champion Wout van Aert at the Trek CXC Cup in September, then it’s good enough as a backup venue for a WCA race.) Maybe that should be the backup option for all WCA races. It’s a half hour east of Madison and an hour west of Milwaukee. Promoters are probably still on the hook for portable toilet rentals and electric generators, but course setup would be easier and, at least this year, racers would welcome the opportunity to preview the state championship venue. Attendance should be good, and you need that to cover your costs.
Still, it’s too bad the Milwaukee area doesn’t have a permanent cyclocross course. It wouldn’t need to be on private land; it only would need to be somewhere that isn’t environmentally or politically sensitive. Even if it didn’t have buildings or electricity, it would at least be no worse than Mitchell Airport Park, and it would have the enormous benefit of being easy to set up on short notice. Imagine a course that is mostly defined not by posts and tape, but by a lawnmower. Imagine something like Badger Prairie, where so much of the course is simply carved into a field of tall grasses. We could have that at Park Site O in West Bend. To be an ideal location for a race, Park Site O would need electricity and bathrooms. As things stand, a promoter might be able to work something out with the Kettle Moraine Ice Center that sits on the property’s eastern boundary. Mitchell Airport Park has no neighbors from which it might borrow or rent resources. Like Mitchell Airport Park, Park Site O is easy to reach from the freeway system, but only Park Site O has off-street parking. It’s 90 minutes from Madison but less than 45 minutes from Milwaukee, and it’s a closer relocation option for the Manitowoc, Grafton and Oshkosh races.
Weather-related cancellations are rare in the WCA cyclocross series, and you couldn’t justify development of Park Site O as merely a backup site to be utilized once every five years or so. I envision a permanent bike park with multi-purpose turf trails that can be used throughout the year. Creating them would be a big job—too big for me to tackle by myself—but it’s still mostly a function of mowing and raking. We could have this by next summer, then work out any kinks during our Tuesday practice series in August and September. Wouldn’t it be cool to see it in use as Plan B when otherwise a race would be canceled outright?
Posted by Dave Hanrahan at 11:00 AM