Image courtesy Google Maps.
Other than a nine-hole golf course and Interstate 29, there’s not much around the former Onawa Municipal Airport – just a long strip of concrete in the middle of the Iowa cornfields – which makes it just about ideal for a dragstrip, say supporters who hope to bring quarter-mile racing there later this year.
Commissioned in April of 1959 and operated for the last 20 years by the city of Onawa, which lies about a hard stone’s throw from the Nebraska border, the airport with its sole 3,400-foot runway and partially empty five hangars hadn’t proven itself beneficial to the city. According to news reports from last year, traffic through the airport had dwindled to about 35 to 40 flights per month and it had never turned a profit in all the time the city ran it.
In addition, an Iowa Department of Transportation long-term report on the airport from 2010 noted that the airport required nearly $700,000 in taxiway rehabilitation but produced less than $175,000 in total economic output.
So last summer, the city shut down the airport and transformed its Airport Alternate Use Committee into the Onawa Racing and Events Complex Committee, tasked with converting the airport’s runway into a dragstrip under the name Onawa Racing and Events Complex. Local motorsports enthusiasts, in turn, have formed a development corporation, Onawa Racing Inc., to lease the complex from the city and operate the dragstrip.
OREC is now in the midst of a $300,000 fundraising campaign to build the infrastructure necessary to get racing started at the dragstrip. The complex already has a set of bleachers bought from the local high school.
Plans call for movable timing equipment to allow 1/8-mile, 1/4-mile, and 1,000-foot dragstrip lengths. OREC officials have not yet chosen a sanctioning body for the track, but claim on their Facebook page that they will be ready to host racing events by the end of 2016.