A return to racing at Southside Speedway? Not so fast, says county consultant

A consultant hired by the county to study Southside Speedway has identified millions of dollars in repairs that would be needed before racing returns to the site. (BizSense File Photo)

Although Chesterfield officials have not fully canceled a future in which racing returns to the closed Southside Speedway, a consultant hired by the county said this week that getting the site back on track is likely to be difficult.

According to consultant Martyn Thake, Southside Speedway needs “significant repairs or replacements” to resume racing. That’s according to his written report and a review he shared with Chesterfield’s board of supervisors on Wednesday.

He said most of the facilities at the racetrack, from the track itself to the fences and bleachers, are in poor condition.

“(The track surface is) deteriorated, unfortunately. It has been closed for two years, I believe, so there has been no maintenance. It would be very difficult to rehabilitate this surface,” he said during his presentation.

Chesterfield bought the Southside Speedway property in 2021 and the racing venue closed permanently at the start of the pandemic.

Although the runway’s inner barrier wall is in fair condition, Thake said in his report that a concrete wall would be needed to replace the outdated sheet steel barrier that runs along the outer protective perimeter of the runway. .

“It hasn’t been accepted as a racial barrier for many years for obvious reasons. It breaks and the sharp ends stick out and can cause all sorts of damage and injury. It doesn’t absorb energy very well” , Thake said.

The consultant said the fence erected to catch the flying debris needed work, as did sections of the retaining wall which reinforces the fence. He said the buildings on the site would likely need replacing, among other issues.

The improvements recommended by the study cost between $12 million and $14 million, Economic Development Director Garrett Hart said in an email ahead of the board meeting. A different consultant arrived at this figure.

Thake himself estimated between $10 million and $15 million to rebuild the track while answering questions from the board at the meeting. He noted that a cost estimate was outside the scope of his company’s high-level review.

“Their scope was very limited to a review of the facility and making recommendations based on observations,” County Administrator Joe Casey said when presenting the study.

A Chesterfield spokeswoman said the Economic Development Authority planned to pay Thake $6,500 for his work. Thake, who said he has more than 40 years of racing industry experience in various roles, is president of Arizona-based Motorsports Consulting Services.

Casey said county staff wanted to create a request for qualifications for the Southside Speedway site to see what kind of interest there was for redevelopment, which could include racing.

“We believe the next logical step will be to issue a formal request for qualifications which will hopefully get many potential partners up and running, including some with racetrack proposals,” Casey said.

Last week, Chesterfield revealed that conversations had ended between county officials and an unidentified party who had presented a plan to redevelop the track’s ownership that would have reintroduced racing. These discussions ceased after it was determined that the developer’s idea was not feasible. Casey said Wednesday that the developer could potentially come back with a new proposal.

“We tried to position the county for partners who wanted to invest in a racecourse. The unsolicited proposal we received a few months ago, which included a racetrack, closed with mutual acknowledgment of high capital costs amid rising funding costs and even supply chain challenges. ‘supply,’ Casey said.

Supervisor Kevin Carroll expressed his hope that the track can be reopened, noting that a thorough study has not yet been completed.

“I am aware that the track is in poor condition at the moment. But one of the things we’ve heard from a lot of people in the community and certainly from people who race there is that it’s the toughest short track in NASCAR. The reason he was difficult was the type of surface he was on. It wasn’t a nice smooth surface. I think without doing the testing or going down to see what the surface is underneath, it’s hard to say it couldn’t be restored with a new surface to what it was before,” Carroll said. “I’m hoping people in the community will come up with a proposal that will work.”

Land Use Plan Approval for Southside Speedway and Surrounding Areas

The Genito/288 special interest area plan was approved by the board of supervisors on Wednesday. (Image courtesy of Chesterfield County)

Thake’s review of the track comes as Chesterfield considers the future of the Southside Speedway property and the nearby area around River City Sportsplex. That process took a step forward on Wednesday, when council voted to adopt the Genito/288 special interest area plan.

The plan for the 659-acre area centered on the Speedway emphasizes future development that would make the Sportsplex at 13030 Genito Road a more desirable venue for youth sports tournaments by introducing more amenities to the surrounding area. Chesterfield is also targeting millions of dollars in upgrades to the 115-acre Sportsplex.

It is Chesterfield’s intention that county staff consult the newly approved land use plan when reviewing development proposals in the area. The plan contains guidelines for the rezoning of properties, road projects and a plan for bicycles and pedestrians.

The plan suggests the construction of a 100-room hotel, restaurants and a commercial development in the central part of the area. It identifies potential entertainment uses for the Southside Speedway track itself, which could take the form of a racing facility, a sports stadium, or something else along those lines.

The land use plan also maps mixed, office and light industrial uses on Genito Road, in addition to medium to high density residential development east of the Oak Lake Business Park.

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