Let’s add up three things and see what answer we get.
1. Cyclo-cross is among the fastest growing sports in the world.
2. Trek Bicycle just held the International Cyclo-cross World Cup in Waterloo last month. The event attracted 2,000 riders and thousands more visitors and press from around the world.
3. The city of Madison needs to close one of its four golf courses.
And that equals?
Here’s the quick background on the golf courses. Madison requires its city-owned courses to be self-funding, but they’ve been running an annual deficit and maintenance needs are accumulating. That has forced the city to consider selling off one of the courses.
The two options are the Monona Course and Yahara Hills, both on the city’s east side. Of the two, closing down Yahara seems to make more sense. It has less of a devoted following than Monona, it plays easier for the average golfer and it’s more conveniently located.
But there’s a hitch. While the amount of land under the nine hole Monona course is relatively manageable and is prime real estate, Yahara is a swampy, rambling 400 acres next to a landfill. It doesn’t have great promise for redevelopment, at least not in the near future.
But the 36-hole course also has the most deferred maintenance needs and cutting the losses could help save the other three courses. And if that’s the decision that the city makes, what do they do with those 400 acres?
Well, the area would be a natural for hiking, mountain biking and cross country ski trails, but why not add cyclo-cross to the list? Imagine the kinds of challenging courses that could be laid out in all that space and with all those natural features of swampy land, open fields and woodlots. There’s even an existing club house that could act as a warming center for cyclo-cross events where the season runs from fall through winter.
And, of course, there’s the potential for income charging folks to ride the trails and charging organizers to put on races. The proximity to major freeways and an existing parking lot could make it a cyclo-cross center attracting visitors and racers from not just Madison, but Milwaukee, Chicago and points beyond.
Madison may decide the future of Yahara Hills as early as this fall. Cyclo-cross should be among the options explored.