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A Look Back: Velodrome Built for 1984 Olympics Brought CSU Dominguez Hills Recognition as Sports and Entertainment Venue
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Caption BulletA Velodrome was built on the current Home Depot Center site for the 1984 Olympics; courtesy of University Archives and Special Collections

A Look Back: Velodrome Built for 1984 Olympics Brought CSU Dominguez Hills Recognition as Sports and Entertainment Venue

When Don Gerth, former president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, was hoping to bring publicity to the university during the 1984 Olympics, he offered a portion of the Carson campus to the event chairman Peter Ueberroth.

“I was aware they were placing venues on campuses and there was a lot of press about UCLA and USC, and I didn’t want the university to be overlooked,” recalls Dr. Gerth 25 years later. “We had a good conversation and at the end, [Ueberroth] asked, ‘How would you like to have the Olympic Velodrome?’ I said, ‘We’ll take it. What is it?’”

The Velodrome, as Gerth and the campus community were to learn, was to be a world class cycling venue with a 333.3 meter track and seating for 2,500 spectators. For the Los Angeles Olympics, 6,000 were accommodated with temporary seating. The construction, which cost $3.5 million, was funded by the Southland Corporation (now known as 7-11, Inc.) and was completed in 1981. In preparation for the Olympics, the concrete track was tested with several smaller events, including a human-powered vehicle exhibition in 1983.

Thomas Philo, archivist, University Archives and Special Collections, says that the use of venues at existing locations throughout Los Angeles, enabled the city to host the Olympics without suffering financial losses on a one-time event that would incur substantial expenses.

“[The Olympic committee] was determined to find sponsorship for the events and make sure that Los Angeles didn’t take a financial hit like other [cities] had in hosting the Olympics,” he says. “Los Angeles became the model on how to do that.”

Philo says that the effort required to bring an Olympic venue to CSU Dominguez Hills speaks to the commitment the campus was making to become a vital part of the Los Angeles community, “where people would come for a premier event like the Olympics.”

“It put us on the map,” he says. “The thought behind it was that we would [later] use it as an outdoor amphitheatre for the university. The further thought was we would make Dominguez Hills the center of collegiate cycling in the country.”

According to David Karber, emeritus professor of public administration and former vice president of administration at the time of the Velodrome’s construction, building the Velodrome and hosting the Olympic cycling events on campus inspired the development of a CSU Dominguez Hills cycling team.

“For several years after the Olympics, the university offered cycling classes as a part of the class schedule,” he says. “We did so well that one year we sent two cyclists, one male and one female, to the national collegiate cycling competition and our team returned with many gold and silver medals. The female cyclist, Janie Eickhoff, went on to be a national champion in cycling.”

Greg Williams, director, University Archives, says that Gerth’s original wish to put the spotlight on CSU Dominguez Hills was realized through the Velodrome’s continued use as a cycling venue.

“The campus became the place to go for the community of bicycle racers throughout Southern California and introduced CSU Dominguez Hills as an educational and sporting venue,” he says. “This resulted in an untold number of local citizens coming to Dominguez Hills for the first time. Combined with its history as a concert or festival setting, the Velodrome’s presence made the greater community aware that the campus was capable of handling large sporting and entertainment events.”

According to Karber, the Velodrome which was meant to operate on a self-supporting basis brought in revenue for the university after the Olympics by being used to film commercials and movies and as a concert venue that drew sell-out crowds. The facility was also used for the university's Commencement ceremonies through the mid-1990s.

Its use as a sports and entertainment venue continued for nearly two decades after the ’84 Games, until it was demolished in 2003 to make way for the Home Depot Center. To replace the cycling venue, the ADT Event Center, an indoor velodrome and U.S. Olympic team training center, was built as part of the HDC complex on the CSU Dominguez Hills campus in 2004, thus preserving the university’s role in providing a place for the cycling community in Southern California.

For more information on the Olympic Velodrome and other features of the CSU Dominguez Hills campus, search the Digital Archives.

- Joanie Harmon


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Last updated August 13, 2009 1:03 PM by Joanie Harmon