Nestled just across the Wisconsin state line at the base of a hill on the east side of Washington Park lies the oldest operating velodrome in the country. Since 1927, the Washington Park Velodrome has been hosting bike racing on its 333-meter lighted track, producing national, Olympic and world champions.
The Washington Park Velodrome is maintained by the city, but is run by Kenosha Velodrome Racing, LTD, and its president, Robby Gauss. They’re responsible for managing all of the racing and events that go on throughout the year.
Every Monday and Tuesday from May through August there is an event at the track. Tuesday nights are USA Cycling sanctioned races, featuring master, junior and elite races. All participants on Tuesdays are licensed riders and competitors and are racing for prize money.
“It’s a lot of fast-paced racing,” Gauss, who has been racing since he was five at the track, says. “Some of the pros are hitting 40-45 mph. That’s quick.”
He even goes as far as to compare it to some professional car racing.
“There are a lot of short bursts and jockeying for positions,” Gauss adds. “It’s kind of like in NASCAR or IndyCar; there’s one car in front and all of them are behind. Some people are more strategic and are behind saving energy because they don’t want to go balls to the wall. Sometimes it works out for them, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Most of the races are pretty short, with sprint races running under 10 laps. However, some longer events, like the Bob Pfarr Memorial Classic, is 150 laps, and the Mayor’s Cup is 75 laps.
“Most races are pretty short,” Gauss says. “We really try to do that to keep the excitement going for the crowd.”
Monday night is kids’ night at the velodrome, when children of all ages get the opportunity to ride on the track like a pro. The only requirement is that kids bring their bike and helmet, but there are also bikes onsite to rent.
“Kids get involved all the time,” Gauss says. “The Monday night program is a feeder for the kids who want to try racing but don’t have the bike to do it. Obviously kids are encouraged to come; that’s how the sport continues to grow.”
Days that there are no races scheduled, the park and the track are open to the public to use. As the only velodrome in the state of Wisconsin, the Kenosha Velodrome is a hot spot for those interested in bike racing.
“They’re around, they’re just few and far between,” Gauss says. “It’s not as big of a sport as it used to be.”
But Gauss is making some changes this year that he hopes will help grow the sport. This summer, they’re teaming up with The Buzz to implement a beer garden year-round at the track after finding success with it last year for a few test weeks.
“It was such a huge success, they approached me and said, ‘we want to build the velodrome up to its former glory,’” Gauss says. “’We’ve seen pictures of the velodrome with thousands of spectators and that’s what we want to see again.’”
The allure of free entry, free parking, free entertainment and beer and food really makes the Kenosha Velodrome a perfect affordable family spot for some summer adventures. All you need is a blanket is a blanket or chair and some good company.
“There’s really no bad seat in the house,” Gauss adds.