In 1895 the cycling community of Cincinnati was excited to hear of plans to build a cement bicycle track in Chester Park; a popular entertainment destination located off of Spring Grove Avenue. The track was to have dressing rooms and training quarters for the cyclists.
A popular route for cyclists out of downtown, Spring Grove Avenue follows the Mill Creek, passes through Carthage and Elmwood Place, and continues on to Hamilton. J.E. Poorman’s annual road race from Hamilton Ohio to the Winton Place area would now be able to arrive and take a turn around the velodrome.
For years the area racing men (and women) had to make do with local horse racing tracks; such as tracks in Latonia Kentucky, Carthage, and Oakley. The soft soil of these tracks made it difficult for the riders, so a cement track was eagerly anticipated. There had been hints from various clubs and investors of plans to build a bicycle only track for many years. The Walnut Hills Cycling club discussed plans to build a clubhouse and track in the 1890’s. There was also talk of building a race track at the popular Ludlow Lagoon in Kentucky (a banked motorcycle track was built at the lagoon in 1913, but it closed after a fiery crash killed nine).
In late January 1896 Bearings Magazine reported that “the new track has passed from the hands of the Cincinnati Consolidated Street Railway Co. into those of the Chester Park Athletic Club.” The track opened with a grand bicycle festival that May 2, and attracted out of town professional racers as well as the locals. The track manager scheduled weekly professional races on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pro level talent was under par for the Cincinnati racers, so it was announced that spring that the track would begin to host race events for “locals only” in addition to its regular scheduled A races.
In the picture of the Ludlow Lagoon track above one can still see the Cincinnati Southern Railway bridge in the background which still stands.
Here is a plan showing the track in 1896:
Here is a contemporary photo showing the cement track. One can also see the overhead wires for lights which allowed for night races:
The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote on May 20, 1896: “Tonight Chester Park will hold an electric light race tournament…The riders this evening will plainly be seen and the event in detail will be no less ably managed than the events given by daylight.” In addition to overhead lighting, the track manager had four large cadmium lights that would spotlight the riders as they raced around the track. Nightime racing during the week would provide a welcome diversion for those who had to work Monday through Saturday (Sundays were for riding!)
Plans were also made to have a large indoor cycling venue with electric lighting and exhibitor booths, but it’s not clear whether this was ever realized.