Bellville Velodrome and athletic track

WP Cycling needs the help of the public in voicing their concerns regarding the latest information regarding the this iconic building in Cape Town. Public input is required, in writing, before 14 August.

During a public participation meeting held at the Velodrome on Thursday, 25 July 2019, I stated that the initial vision had all of the best intentions. The City of Cape Town did not have the money to maintain the sports facilities and was looking at a public-private partnership, where the developer received the rights to develop the land around the facilities, for profit, in lieu of an initial 30 year lease to manage and maintain the facilities.

Photo credit: Michelle Otto/ Fullgasracing

From the details mentioned below the City required potential developers to improve the facilities, to benefit the sporting bodies and to honour the existing usage contracts they had with the them. For me the most important part was that improvements to Velodrome and athletic track may not compromise its intended function and purpose.

A mandated Public Participation Program is now in process in accordance with city regulations for the sale of the property adjacent to the sports facilities, interlinked with a lease agreement for the Velodrome and athletic track, from the City to the developer, which does not reflect any of the vision or intentions of the tender in terms of their obligations to the various sports.

We should object that the obligations towards the sporting bodies have not been agreed with all parties and are not captured in the same legally binding wording as the rest of the agreements. There could even be an argument that since our tax money paid for the facility it should be for the community’s exclusive use.

Please make time to submit your comments online, write a letter and deliver it to the city offices. The details of the public participation process, together with the other contact details, can be found here.

Some topics to mention in your feedback, as well as a summary of the facts, are provided below for convenience.

Talking topics

  • The tender had good intentions to find a funding model for the facilities. Where are the detailed commitments to usage rights for sports, improvements to the facility directly related to sport and other obligations recorded so that the public can judge whether the agreements reached with the developer reflect this?
  • Why have the sporting bodies not been approached for input? This was an explicit requirement of the tender. This has had to be done prior to reaching a legal agreement.
  • Sport is a 365 day a year commitment. Facilities have to be available throughout the year to train, unlike suggestions that the facilities will primarily be for commercial use and be made available to sport for select days a year for major events.
  • The public should remind the City that, in line with the conditions for subdivision of the erf, the facilities should remain for its intended purpose and function; a Velodrome for cycling and indoor sport and an athletic track, well, for athletics and other outdoor sports, as appropriate.
  • The building has been neglected for nearly 10 years now. Although a re-valuation of the land around the velodrome, which is being sold, has been done, which will increase the sales price, no adjustments have been made towards the financial commitments of upgrades to the facilities. The facilities require extensive rework to bring it back to the same state as of the time of the tender.
  • Why are the contracts with the Sports Federation(s) being ignored when the City explicitly stated in the tender that it should be honoured?
  • The City has an opportunity to differentiate itself from other South African cities by providing world class (sporting) facilities to its citizens. After all, there is a reasonable expectation that multi-functional facilities such as these are to be made available to the public in lieu of the taxes we pay. National government in not doing enough for sport, should this city not show us how they can do it better?

The details

About 12 years ago the City of Cape Town decided to go out on public tender, not only to find a commercial partner to develop the area, but also to take on the responsibility of managing the sports facilities in exchange for development rights to the vacant land surrounding these 2 venues. At that time a public participation process was held in terms of the proposed tender, but at that time it all sounded like a reasonable compromise, as the city needed funds to maintain the facilities.

The process included a Request for Proposal which stated that the City had a vision of a public-private partnership to develop vacant municipal land in the Tyger Valley area and “improve the municipal and public facilities located on this property” (section 11.1). Further, the “Development Objectives” (section 11.4.2) stated, “To conclude a mutually beneficial agreement with regards to management and operation of [the sports facilities]”, “To further develop and complete the [sports facilities] and “To more effectively utilise the Velodrome and Athletics track facilities to the benefit of the Council, the relevant sporting codes and the public at large.” Section 11.5.1 stated that “The Western Cape Cycling Federation and Bellville Cycling Club have, through the Sports Federation, a long term lease to the use of the Velodrome. The City wishes to honour these lease agreements and the relevant sports organisations must be consulted with regards to their utilisation patterns and programmes.” The same was said about “The Bellville Athletic Club, through the Sports Federation”, in section 11.5.2.

Appendix A, section 6.2 of the conditions for subdivision later clearly stated “That no improvements to Erf 21750, Bellville may compromise the function and purpose of the Velodrome and athletics track.”

Devmet stated in their tender document that “It is imperative that the collective expertise of the developer, as well as its associates, utilize its vast experience to complete the facility to become a world-class venue, taking into consideration the needs of the Cycling Federation and also assisting Cycling SA to host international events of significance.”

Two years later, in 2009, Devmet were awarded the tender which included upgrading both facilities as City of Cape Town. The developer offered to improve the sports facility for a minimum of R44.55m for the Velodrome and an minimum of R17.24m for the athletics stadium.

Given the City’s requirements and the developer’s response the initial tender proposal seems like a reasonable compromise to see the sports facilities properly maintained and managed.

In the mean time a Agreement of Sale (for the area around the sports facilities) and an Agreement of Lease (for the sporting facilities) have been concluded and signed. The latest public participation process therefore seeks the public’s input into the sale, and by extension, the lease, as these agreements are mutually dependent on each other.

A public meeting was held on Thursday, 25 July 2019, where the City of Cape Town and various sporting bodies had an opportunity to make a presentation. The assembled crowd heard from people from all walks of life who believe that the preservation of both facilities is in the public interest. Feelings ran high as close to 600 members of the public attended the gathering. The overall feeling is that the public want the velodrome and athletics track to remain in the custody of City of Cape Town and be properly looked after like they deserve. The public also spoke out about a number of issues of concern.

The contracts with the sporting bodies, which the city admitted exist and should be honoured, are not being honoured in the true spirit within which they were concluded. The Sports Federation, Bellville Cycling- and Athletic Club are directly and negatively affected by these developments.

The City’s vision in terms of benefits toward the sporting bodies are not being realised in any of the agreements that have been signed with the developer. There is no mention of the commitments towards sport, the access that will be granted and the proposed schedules. One speaker at the meeting stated that sport is a 365 day a year commitment. Sporting facilities are not about the one national event a year, but about frequent access to train at these venues. The public feels that “the function and purpose of the Velodrome and athletics track” is being compromised, as it is being turned into a commercial events venue.

The Velodrome and athletics track were built using tax payer’s money and for the benefit of the community. It was intended for our athletes to train at and hopefully succeed to make our nation proud. It appears that it will be pawned off with little regard to the public interest.

Recent statements were made that the venue is under utilised. The City has not budgeted for maintenance of the facility since 2006. Further, its own departments consider parts of the facilities unsafe and have not allowed bookings for the venue. It is therefore no wonder that utilisation has declined. A cyclists will not buy the dedicated bicycles required if the future of the venue for training and competing is in question. This is a problem of their own making.

While about 10 years have passed since the tender was awarded only the sales price of the vacant land has been adjusted. The neglect of the facilities during this period has not been considered and the commitment to the upgrades have remained unchanged. The sales price of the surrounding land has been adjusted based on a mandated re-valuation process in terms of City regulations.

Details about the committed upgrades to the facilities are sparse. There is clear indications from the various documents that the sports facilities are going to be turned into a venue for events (think music concerts), expos and similar, so it is fair to assume that the upgrades will go towards furthering these goals and not to fix the cycling or athletics tracks.

The lease agreement points to proposed schedules for events, but the reference points to an unrelated section in the tender document.

Final thoughts

From a cycling perspective, taking into consideration the commercial requirements to fund the venue, the public should require reasonable access to the venue for sport. The sport facilities must not primarily be a commercial venue.

This would typically mean that sport should have free access to the venue weekly from Monday 12:00 to Friday 08:00 for at least 80% of the weeks in the calendar year and 20% guaranteed access over the weekends of a calendar year at the current prescribed facilities rental rate, adjusted for inflation.

The public participation process requires the input from you, the public, to protect the interest of local sport in terms of these facilities. We therefore call on the public to submit written comment on these matters before the deadline on 14 August 2019 via the channels indicated relevant page of the City of Cape Town website.

Only through significant public input can the interest of sport be protected and the use of Velodrome and athletics track be secured.