Nobody seems willing to actually address this issue, and I think I know why…
Many were shocked when back on March 25 NHRA dropped the bomb that Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is set to close down for good next year. The tracks and other facilities in the park are doomed thanks to an expansion project for Interstate 10 in the Phoenix Metro Area. Since I live in the area and frequent there, this literally hits close to home for me.
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Just over a year ago, there was a proposed plan to redevelop the increasingly valuable land Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park now occupies. With real estate prices absolutely rocketing out of control in the Phoenix area as the city continues to grow by leaps and bounds, the Gila River Indian Community hatched a plan to raze the motorsports park and replace it with a sports and entertainment district with restaurants, retail spaces, sports facilities, parks, and an office complex. Mind you, there’s already a casino and mall just down the road, not to mention restaurants and retail on the other side of I-10. This redevelopment plan was supposed to be put into action several years down the road, maybe as far into the future as a decade. That all changed when Wild Horse Pass suddenly let the cat out of the bag, announcing the facilities would be closing within a year.
Right now, there’s no official plan to open a comparable motorsports park in the Phoenix area. If you’re not familiar with the complex, it houses an amazing quarter mile NHRA sanctioned track, 1.6-mile road course, 1.25-mile road course, 1.1-mile road course, an off-road course, plus a 2.4-mile oval lake which is one of only two purpose-built boat racing lakes in the United States.
Unfortunately, we’ve all seen this same scenario play out endlessly just in the past few years. If I were to try listing off all the tracks which have been shut down to make way for new developments, I’d definitely miss at least a few, there are so many. One notable closure which also was recently leaked to the media is Memphis International Raceway. The rumor is it’s been sold to a “non-racing party” or in other words it’s most likely a goner. The land will probably become the site of some luxury condos or something like that.
What drives the closure of so many tracks and motorsports parks usually comes down to one thing: money. While racetracks generate revenue, for the space they take up they’re not highly profitable. As cities continue expanding and developers get dollar signs in their eyes, they find ways to gobble up the ever-more-valuable land occupied by these facilities. They don’t care what these changes do to communities because they have to get paid, period.
Local news station ABC 15 ran an article after the closure was announced. The headline read: “closing of valley racetrack could result in more street racing.” Yes, it’s the most obvious statement ever, but what is anyone doing about it? If there isn’t a financial incentive to establish or keep open racetracks, some people will turn to illegal street races. That’s not true of all enthusiasts, but to ignore the problem by only focusing on part of the group would be dishonest.
American racetracks are dying in droves and nobody in government at the city, county, or state level seems to care. Yet everyone cares about illegal street racing, which seem to be growing in popularity once more, and understandably so since it’s incredibly dangerous. Then again, with law enforcement leveling fines and seizing the cars owned by street racers, maybe the decision by the government to not support building new tracks is really about money as well.
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