City council pulls plug on Race City
Calgary city council has voted against extending the lease of the city’s only facility dedicated to auto racing.
The possible closure of Race City Motorsport Park located in southeast Calgary has left many trying to fight for the track to stay open.
“Race City had an original lease from 1985 to 2005. In 1993 the city wrote an extension to that lease from 2005 to 2025,” said Race City President Art MacKenzie.
“The motion that went before council originally by Ald. (Ric) McIvor and Ald. (Joe) Connolly was simply to have the city acknowledge the existing lease to at least 2015.”
But on Jan. 26, the vote to extend the lease was defeated in a 7-7 tie, with many aldermen citing that the lease was not valid. This means that Race City Motorsports is being asked to shut down by April 2010. The racing season for 2009 will last until October.
MacKenzie said the closure will greatly affect the racing community because not only will people not have a place to race but a number a citizens in Calgary who solely get their income from the sport of racing will be out of a job.
MacKenzie said a number of people and organizations, including the Calgary Motor Sports Association, have stepped up to try and keep Race City Motorsports open.
Rick Francescone of the Calgary Motor Sports Association said “city council should smarten up,” when asked about the situation.
The Calgary Motor Sports Association was set up a year ago as an umbrella group for all the different types of sports that use the facility, including motorcycle, drag and oval racing.
“Our mandate is to raise a public awareness of what the facility has to offer the city of Calgary. Most people are unaware of the economic impact of the facility and the safety it provides in drivers’ education,” Francescone said.
He wanted to get the message out that there will still be racing at the facility just as there has been in previous years.
Francescone said advocating for Race City Motorsports to stay open is important to him because it is important for the safety of Calgarians.
He added that Calgary doesn’t have an illegal street racing program because of the Secret Street program that is run at Race City every night.
MacKenzie agrees and said Race City Motorsports has been an outlet for drag racing and the closure of the park could lead to people racing in industrial parks and communities in the city.
Francescone said approximately 200 street racers and 400 spectators who could get hurt in an illegal street race are currently racing in a controlled environment. The precautions taken at the park include safety inspections of vehicles, ensuring that all vehicles are legal and registered and that drivers have valid licences.
If the street racing is not dealt with now, said Francescone, it will erupt until it is out of control like the gang violence in Calgary.
Francescone said an outbreak of illegal street racing occurred in San Diego in 2002, which caused the city to set up a program like the one at Race City Motorsports.
The city also rents out Qualcomm Stadium where the San Diego Chargers play and runs a drag strip there every Friday night.
Francescone said it is very expensive to run and no businesses have stepped up to help offset the cost. Therefore, the drag races are financed through government grants and taxpayers money.
“The city is going to have to complain to the province to get more money for additional policing to deal with the illegal street racing problem just like they have to do with the gang violence problem.”
MacKenzie said the option now for the Race City Motorsports facility is to work with the city to find a compromise or take legal action.