INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut proclaimed the opening of the Major Taylor Velodrome a ‘national happening,” on July 15, 1982.
Hudnut made the declaration before a crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of the velodrome, which the city built for the 1982 National Sports Festival.
The Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation and the Lilly Endowment financed the $2.5-million velodrome. It was a project more than a decade in the making according to F. Arthur Strong, the director of the City of Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation.
Mayor Hudnut presented a key to the city to Sydney Taylor Brown, the daughter of Marshall "Major" Taylor.
About 2,000 fans gathered for the velodrome’s competitive debut on July 24, 1982. WRTV sports director Tom Carnegie said the velodrome was “equal to or finer than any track in the USA.”
There were only a dozen velodromes in existence at that time.
But who was Marshall “Major” Taylor?
According to a May 1982 report from WRTV journalist Howard Caldwell, bike racing had a tremendous following in the 1890s. One of the most prolific racers of the time was Marshall “Major” Taylor of Indianapolis.
In 1898, Taylor established himself as a national contender at Newby Oval, a bike track located on 15-acres of land north of 30th Street between Central and College avenues.
Major Taylor became the first African American world champion in professional cycling in 1899. Taylor encountered racial discrimination through most his racing career. Taylor's perseverance led him to became a role model for other athletes facing racial discrimination.