A stroll down the slanting and broken sidewalks of North Liberty street in downtown Winston-Salem takes you past a multi-story banner that has been loudly proclaiming the coming of the National Cycling Center for more than two years.
The banner spills down the front of a dilapidated brick building that appears abandoned from the outside. Although the banner stands as a beacon of change and development in the downtown area, it has started to become more of a question mark.
The banner has been up for over 2 years now and there are still no signs of any renovations or changes to the building itself. According to the National Cycling Center website, the center was supposed to be open and operational in 2016. After that, the intended opening was Spring of 2017 before it was again shifted back to the Spring of 2018.
The National Cycling Center is a project that was the brainchild of several local professionals including Wells-Fargo financial advisor, Sterling Swaim, and anesthesiologist, Dr. Richard Rauck. As of now, it remains an empty, five story, 40,000 square foot building, but Rauck said he thinks it has a big future.
According to Rauck, the National Cycling Center, or NCC, is a non-profit organization that will receive certain concessions from the city as it opens, but no direct money. Instead, he said the board is running a capital campaign which has already garnered around two million dollars and will rely on the rent provided by tenants that will occupy much of the space inside the building.
The NCC building will include apartments for residential athletes who are at or near the pro-level, cycling studio/training space, classrooms, an area for bike repair and storage, and a few unaffiliated businesses as tenants.
The center already has approval from USA Cycling, the chief governing body of cycling in the U.S. and upon opening will become an official training center of USA cycling, said Rauck. The goals of the NCC do not stop there, however, as Rauck envisions a much broader usage of the center.
“The intent is for it to be called the National Olympic Cycling Center,” said Rauck.
Meetings have already taken place between the NCC, USA Cycling and the U.S. Olympic committee and Rauck indicated that he thought the center had a very good chance of becoming the first Olympic-sanctioned cycling center in the country.
Although Rauck presents a positive future for the NCC, the fact remains that it is two years behind schedule. Jon Hamblen, former pro-cyclist and current coach, has been working with the NCC board members since the inception of the project and provided a different perspective.
According to Hamblen, the building is already owned by the cycling center, but until some of the space can be leased out to a separate business, the project can’t move forward.
“I think the main delay right now is getting [a tenant] into the main floor,” said Hamblen, “They [the cycling center] need to lease that floor out to…finish it all up.”
Hamblen said that the project is in fact very close to being finished and has been that way for some time. The challenging part has been finding a tenant to move into the space. Hamblen said that several companies, including Harris Teeter (Harris Teeter has not responded for comment), have been close to finalizing a deal with the center only to back out at the last minute.
In addition to acquainting Winston-Salem with the sport of cycling, Hamblen thinks the NCC will provide downtown with a jolt of new faces.
“You’ll see a bunch of people with bad tans hanging out at coffee shops,” said Hamblen “[Racers] will go out to eat and hang out at coffee shops all day long when they’re not riding.”
In addition to the athletes themselves, new businesses and people will move in to cater to the abundance of cyclists in the area, creating an economic boost for development and growth downtown, according to Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
“I think the [economic impact] could be great,” said Thiel, “you’ll have people coming to visit, events, cycling companies, and money being spent downtown.”