The Heroes of Summer


There exists a place in Detroit that, unlike the city surrounding it, has bucked the laws of physics. Entropy seems to have no hold on it. Instead, it has come back from ruin. It is becoming better, rather than decaying. Every summer this place seems to awaken. Much like a slumbering bear, early summer brings the first stirrings. The sounds of lawnmowers and weed whips. Soon, each Saturday exhibits more and more activity as concrete is poured, repairs are made, and things just get a little bit more better. That place is the Dorais Velodrome. It and the surrounding 33-acre park are a glimmer of hope to those hoping, praying and working for a better tomorrow in Detroit.

In 2010, a “renegade urban landscaping group” called The Mower Gang went into an overgrown and crumbling Dorais Park and started to clean it up. They made what is best described as an archaeological discovery. In the park was the remnants of a concrete velodrome. Some research showed that this velodrome was built by the Wolverine Cycling Club in 1969 and was the site of the 1969 U.S. National Track Championships. The sandy soil underneath proved too weak to support the track causing cracks to emerge. Other irregularities in its design doomed it to oblivion shortly thereafter.

That is, until 2010. After The Mower Gang discovered the track, Atomic Toasters Associates Ben Wojdyla and Andy Didorosi along with Al Schlutow decided this would be their contribution to Detroit’s renaissance. Since 2011 2010, one night in the summer turns the park and the velodrome into a full on race facility. Pit bikes, bicycles, dirt bikes, scooters, and go karts make up some of the classes of racing. Beer tents and people having a good time make up the atmosphere. Oh, and it’s not just called “the velodrome”. No, that’s too…generic. Instead, it has an epic name worthy of it’s epic goal.

The Thunderdrome.

Money raised from ticket sales is going to offset the cost of maintenance and putting on the races. It is also going to start a conservancy for the Dorais Park to return it to its former glory.

I plan on (finally) attending this years races being held on September 21. If you are in or near the Detroit area, I recommend you go. Tickets can be purchased from the website linked above. If you do go, maybe we can have a meetup and have an Atomic Toasters Cheerleading Section!

Ed. After speaking with Ben Wojdyla via the Book of Face, we found out that the first races were held in 2010. The appropriate edit has been made.

[Image Credit: The Thunderdrome]

  • That's it. I have to find a reason to go to Detroit. Hmm… searching for conferences now…

  • Electrohacker


    October 2010 was the first race, not summer 2011