Ogden’s Mayor Dreams Big: Why Not a Velodrome?

Riding on air at iFly Utah
Riding on a bed of air at iFly Utah, a skydiving simulator.

The city of Ogden Utah is abuzz with the sound of its boosters, many of whom came here to ski and just stayed. Again and again in this city of 240,000, I heard stories about transplants who now make Utah their permanent home.

Rick, our host here who sells the city to conventions, meetings and groups of skiers, told us his story of how he wanted to move west and looked at Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming—but never thought about Utah until someone suggested he come ski at Snow Basin. It was the absence of lift lines and the wide open, uncongested slopes that convinced him that this would be his next home. He moved here without a job, in his late 50s, and now like many of the people we met, he sings its praises.

Ogden’s mayor has big ideas….he wants to build an indoor field house right smack in the center of downtown. It would have a velodrome, for bike races, and giant pools, a water park actually, and an indoor track. It would be big–big enough to allow all of the swimmers who use various other school pools to come to one place. And a velodrome–well, the closest one of these is all the way in California.  While the mayor dreams of tapping local recreation funds as seed money, the powers that hand over that dough haven’t seen any commitments in writing from the University and other entities who would help fork over the $40 million price tag, so the idea is still not hatched.  But the city has some pretty great attractions already.

Within 30 minutes there are two top-class ski areas, Snow Basin and Powder Mountain.  In place of a downtown mall that died when Nordstrom pulled out in 2001, a gigantic building was put up called the Salomon Center. That’s the same name as the ski and binding company that located here back then. Inside there is an amazing attraction called iFlyUtah. It’s a glass-walled 20 x 20 chamber where a huge fan blows wind so hard that people can levitate up as if they were skydiving.

A man in the booth helps the newbie skydivers navigate their 2 minutes in near zero gravity, and sometimes he shows off and dips and soars in the tall chamber, letting the air push him way, way up and then hover again at ground level.  There’s also a giant arcade, a full size bowling alley and the biggest Gold’s Gym you’ve ever seen. Oh, and bars and restaurants and a children’s museum.

Across from the Salomon Center is a 13-screen megaplex, and across from that. a new Hilton Hotel will soon rise. All of this new downtown was created on the ashes of a mall that died.  The city is getting better and better, and a high-speed rail line called the Frontrunner can take residents down to Salt Lake City in about 40 minutes…and the trains are popular and well used.