TREXLERTOWN, Pa. - An indoor arena for bicycle races in the Lehigh Valley has found itself troubled by a drop in ticket sales and turmoil in management.
Founded in 1975 as the Lehigh County Velodrome, and now known as the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, the arena remains a world-renowned track and held many top-tier internationally sanctioned races on Friday nights this summer.
But tax records reviewed by the Morning Call of Allentown show that since 2000, the arena has lost a cumulative $564,000. Only two fiscal years since then have been profitable.
Tax records show ticket sales peaked in 2003 at $86,517 and were down about 25 percent from that peak in 2007.
"No doubt, the biggest challenge is about money being tight," board Chairman Bob Martin said.
Turnover in management has also been a problem. President and Chief Executive Officer Erin Hartwell resigned abruptly in October, just months after the two-time Olympic medalist had gotten a four-year contract extension. His successor will become the center's fourth leader since 2004, not including an acting director.
Hartwell's predecessor was Ron Horn, a utility executive and sports entrepreneur who specialized in cross-country races. He said a problem has been leaders with excellent cycling skills but little business knowledge.
Track bicycling is an exciting sport, but a relatively obscure one, he said.
"Some of the people there are way too close to bicycling," Horn said. "They think the sport should be good enough to bring people to the velodrome. It is not."
The board declined to renew Horn's contract after one year running the arena.
Some of the center's biggest defenders, including homegrown hero Marty Nothstein, said it can't afford missteps going forward.