Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Monday, 1 September 2008 15:27 UK

Re-vamp for Victorian velodrome

Carmarthen velodrome in the early 1900s

An outdoor velodrome that first opened in 1900 will be used by cyclists for many years to come thanks to a revamp.

Facilities at the track will be upgraded as part of a £323,000 scheme to enhance Carmarthen Park.

The town council believes it is the oldest outdoor, concrete velodrome that has been in constant use in the world.

In Victorian times people gathered in their thousands to watch races at the park and it is still used by cyclists today.

The velodrome is home to the Towy Riders - a club for under 16s that has become one of the largest in Wales since it was formed by parents just over a year ago.

Spokesman Neil Hunt said he hoped with the investment the park could go to hold national championships.

Mr Hunt said cycling was a thriving sport in Carmarthenshire and with the success of the British team at the Beijing Olympics - where they won seven gold medals - it would continue to grow.

"Our club has gone from six children last year to 58 now - all through word of mouth," he said.

"We had out first British Champion two weeks ago and it's just gone through the ceiling."

Towy riders
It is a wonderful facility and the refurbishment works will improve it even further
Clive Scourfield

He said the sport boosted youngsters' fitness and children from a wider and wider catchment area were joining.

The renovation will involve the restoration of the Victorian velodrome and the connecting walkways, new low-level lighting, extending the boundary railings around the whole park and new outdoor gym equipment.

There will also be a refreshment outlet and possibly historical interpretation boards.

It is a joint project between Carmarthenshire and Carmarthen Town councils funded mainly with a European Rural Development Plan grant.

It was estimated that around 8,000 attended the park's opening on Easter Monday in 1900.

A report in a local newspaper at the time described the velodrome as "one of the finest cycling tracks in the kingdom".

The park forms a natural amphitheatre and most of the original features are still present, including the decorative iron entrance gates and bandstand.

Carmarthenshire executive board member for regeneration Clive Scourfield said: "We are delighted with this funding for the enhancement.

"It is a wonderful facility and the refurbishment works will improve it even further and help attract more visitors."


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