THE SUMMER DAYS of bicycle racing in Columbia could draw to a permanent end on Aug. 31, when the Columbia BMX Supertrack in the Harper's Choice village center closes for good.
The track has certainly been popular. It has been a healthy recreational alternative for fun-seeking teen-agers, many of whom have tested their bike maneuvering skills against the challenging curves and hills. The Bicycle Moto-Cross track's drawing power and near-landmark status should earn it a home in Columbia.
But that home cannot be the place where it has operated for the past 18 years. Rugged bicycle tires must give way to screeching shopping cart wheels; the BMX site is needed to build a large Safeway grocery store, which is desperately needed to help revitalize the struggling village center in Harper's Choice.
For sure, the track filled a niche in Howard County's planned city, where recreation is king. The American Bicycle Association hosted races on Sundays and the public used it the rest of the week for recreational riding. And there is definitely sentiment attached to the facility. A segment of the community embraced it the way some old Colts football fans latched onto the Baltimore Stallions a couple years back.
The Stallions had to depart, although they had just won a Canadian Football League title, to make room for the National Football League Ravens. Likewise, the track has to leave for something better -- a Safeway store that will anchor the aging village center and make it relevant to the community once again. This must be done despite the track's success and its standing as the No. 1 facility of its kind on the East Coast.
The track's operators used the space rent-free under an agreement with the Rouse Co. The pact gave Rouse the right to reclaim the property at any time for "its ultimate use," an official said. With the closing last year of the 27,000-square-foot Valu Food store and consumer demands for a larger supermarket, the village center needs the room for a 55,000-square-foot store.
Still, it would be unfortunate if the race track is not replaced. The community's interest would be served if the Rouse Co. could work with the Columbia Association to find land to keep this type of facility in New Town.
Pub Date: 8/05/96