Fast Digs: The Saucer Track
First, let me apologize, this is going to be one of those incomplete posts. I have much information about the Saucer Track, relating to its construction, and the races that took place upon it, but other than a little bit to pique your interest (and it is interesting), most of the information will only be presented in Fast Digs (the book) when it is finished and published.
The So-called Saucer Track opened in Los Angeles in late 1899 on the foundations of a hotel atTenth and Main, and was the first "indoor" wood track built in the city. When we think of indoor tracks today we probably think of something like the Velosport Center, a track enclosed by a solid structure. The Saucer Track was a little bit different. While the walls and roof framing were wood, the roof was canvas stretched over the framing. It was enough for the track to be defined as an indoor one. That was an important distinction, because immediately upon its opening World Records began to be established. This created a problem; so many records were being set that it was not uncommon for people to believe that something fishy was going on.
You may have already guessed, and even though it was the common name for the tracks' first few months, the name "Saucer Track" was more a descriptive term than anything, and refers to the shape. The track was built with capital provided by Mr. E. A. Ellsworth of Salt Lake City and constructed of wood, an eighth of a mile per lap and banked all around, steeper at the ends and more shallow on the sides. Interestingly Ellsworth was also the main financial backer of a world class track built earlier in the year at his hometown in Utah. That track too saw world records being set on its wood surface; the Los Angeles "saucer track" was in many was an improved version of the Salt Lake track, the builders able to incorporate modifications and improvements based upon what was learned from the earlier design.