Pin It
Favorite

Another Lap 

It's a brand-new day at the Spokane County Raceway. Yet again.

click to enlarge art17505.jpg

A year and a half ago, Spokane County announced that the controversial Spokane County Raceway would have two new operators to revitalize it, including Charlie Allen, the man who’s run the Firebird International Speedway in Arizona since 1983. The new operators sought to distance themselves from the track’s colored 35-year history, using phrases like, “It’s a new day.”

Last Friday was yet another new day. Raceway representatives used similar language to announce yet another change in management. Charlie Allen has pulled out, and Spokane local Craig Smith — boat racer, plane flyer, and one-time successful World Champion dragster — has stepped into his place.

“The track does have a bit of a tarnished image out there,” Smith says. “We will work to re-brand that.”

After years of making headlines, the raceway — and the drag strip, in particular — has a problematic reputation.

“I think seven cars bumped into the wall,” Smith says of the drag strip’s slick surface. “That’s not good.”

Smith has spent $100,000 to buy a customized tractor he plans to use to grind up the surface of the strip.

The track, he says, is still “deep in the red.” He plans to get rid of money-losing events — no more Super Chevy or NASCAR series — but also plans to lower ticket prices, hoping to draw more families.

“One thing that Charlie [Allen] did — he wanted to keep the prices high,” Smith says. “It worked for the Phoenix area, but it doesn’t work here.”

He’d like the track to be more family-friendly — no more bikini contests, no more allowing the Déja Vu strip club to sponsor cars. “If my priest wants to come out there, I want to be comfortable with him sitting in the stands,” he says.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke says that he was “surprised with the tone of the press conference.” To him, the changes at the raceway in the last year and a half, including the rebuilding of the road course for safety reasons, have been largely positive.

After Mielke and fellow Commissioner Mark Richard voted to pay $4.5 million for the raceway in 2008, some worried it would be a boondoggle. After Charlie Allen came on, former Commissioner Bonnie Mager called the track a “money pit.” During his 2010 race against Mager, Al French suggested selling the track.

While the operators pay for basic operation funding, the county still has to pay for debt service.

“Every year that goes by we lose more money,” Mager says.

“Thumbs down, still.”

But Mielke says the impact of the course has to be considered.

Buying Antoine Peak Spokane cost $10 million, but fewer than 200 hikers visit it a year, he says.

Yet when those bleachers at the track really get full, he says, they’re packed with over 5,000 racing fans.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Resistance
  • La Resistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Women's March on Spokane

Women's March on Spokane @ Spokane Convention Center

Sat., Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Daniel Walters

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • CMR and MLK
  • CMR and MLK

    Congresswoman among community leaders responding to post-election racial slurs; plus, remembering Judge Sam Cozza
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • The Other Washington
  • The Other Washington

    Our local state representatives and senators gear up for another year of fights over education, taxes and crime
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

scandal


scandals


Comment


Briefs


green zone


Readers also liked…

  • The <i>Real</i> Rachel Dolezal
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation