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BMX Centre a thrill from start to finish

Patricia Williams
BMX Centre a thrill from start to finish
The new BMX Centre at Centennial Park in Toronto has a permanent eight-metre start ramp and a 350-metre track. The facility is home to BMX cycling competitions at the 2015 Pan Am Games. -

For Kleinfeldt Mychajlowycz Architects (KMA) Inc., construction of the BMX Centre at Centennial Park in Toronto’s west end has been an exciting ride from start to finish.

The successful proponent in a public request for proposals (RFP), KMA joined forces with Elite Trax Inc. of Ohio to design the 3.2 hectare facility, home to the BMX cycling competitions at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.

"This was completely out of our comfort zone, but that was the appeal of it," said KMA partner Carol Kleinfeldt.

"We knew it would be a completely different set of circumstances to a traditional building project but we were up to the challenge."

The track has been designed and constructed to meet Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) certification standards. Riders launch from a permanent eight-metre start ramp onto the 350-metre track.

The compact, closed-loop design consists of four straightaways and three banked turns, filled with challenging jumps.

Following the Games, a permanent five-metre start ramp will be constructed beside the eight-metre ramp to serve younger and inexperienced riders.

The estimated $3.5 million project was undertaken by a team that included contractor Gateman Milloy, civil engineers EMC Group Ltd., structural engineers WSP (Halsall Associates) and electrical engineers Smith + Andersen.

Key subtrades were Reimar Forming & Construction, which was responsible for the forming and concrete work, and Resource Industrial Group, the metal fabricator for the start gate enclosure and gates.

For the architects, the design and construction of the two start ramps presented an opportunity to make use of a palette of materials not usually available for conventional "built" projects.

The walls and roofs are constructed of galvanized steel sections. The project also makes use of "board-formed" concrete on the underside of the start ramps as well as on the more than 40-metre retaining wall.

Kleinfeldt said one of the key design challenges entailed dealing with drainage issues. UCI and BMX competition rules require that the track be dry within 30 minutes of rainfall.

The site is located at the low point of a large drainage basin stretching as far as Eglinton Avenue at the north, and including a baseball diamond at the east.

On top of this, a designated wetland area lies immediately to the south.

"Significant subsurface infrastructure has to be designed to manage these flows and maintain water quality to the satisfaction of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority," Kleinfeldt said.

On the construction side, challenges were plentiful, she said.

The structural slab of the eight-metre start ramp had to be poured in a "reversing arc/curve and broom-finished over its 10-metre width, which required some interesting gymnastics."

The asphalt paving at the track turns required placing and compacting asphalt at an almost 90-degree vertical, "which at first would seem impossible.

"But with the right asphalt mix formulation and application of a lot of muscle, it proved possible."

KMA was retained to design the facility in May 2013. A pre-construction meeting was held in late July 2014. The pre-Games phase was completed at the end of May of this year.

The architects contacted Elite Trax after the RFP was issued. That firm designed and built the track for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, among other projects.

Elite Trax is leading the design for the BMX SX track at the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

"As soon as I saw the RFP, I looked up the leading world BMX track designers," Kleinfeldt recalled.

"I called Elite Trax and asked for an exclusive (arrangement) with them and they obliged."

Kleinfeldt said one of the most rewarding aspects of the project was working with Gateman Milloy, a Kitchener-based firm which began as golf course builders. It now constructs manufacturing facilities and office buildings in addition to public parks and golf courses.

"Their expertise (in earthworks construction) proved invaluable to the team and the project."

Kleinfeldt said the subtrades were "well-organized, proactive, and willing to work to find solutions to site and construction issues."

Concrete was formed and poured throughout a very severe winter, she said.

Following the Games, the public will have access to the facility, which was jointly funded by the federal government and the City of Toronto.

"The city and the TO2015 staff were extremely supportive of the project from the outset," Kleinfeldt said.

For more on the Pan Am Games visit our feature page.

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