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Utah’s Rocky Mountain Raceways to close after 2018 season

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An aerial view of Rocky Mountain Raceways. Photo courtesy Google Maps.

In 1968, Bonneville Raceways brought drag racing to West Valley City, Utah, a community located southwest of Salt Lake City. In 1995, the tired facility was purchased and revitalized by Spencer Young Sr., who renamed it Rocky Mountain Raceways. Since then, the park has maintained a busy annual schedule that now includes oval track and motocross racing, but the facility’s 50th year will be its last: Following the 2018 season, Rocky Mountain Raceways will be razed to make room for commercial development.

Over the years, the strip reportedly attracted famous competitors like Shirley Muldowney and Don Garlits, but, by the early 1990s, had fallen into a state of disrepair. Young saw potential in the neglected park and, after purchasing the property in 1995, brought the drag strip up to then-current NHRA regulations. A paved 3/8-mile oval, complete with crossovers for figure-eight racing and stadium seating, came next, followed by a motocross park. At one time, the raceway even included an off-road course for four-wheeling aficionados.

As has been the case with motorsport facilities across the country, the value of the commercial property rose as annual ticket sales declined, eventually making the raceway’s land more valuable than the tracks it contained. In 2014, the property was sold to Freeport West, but Young Automotive Group, which operates the facility, negotiated a five-year lease to keep racing alive. The deal contained no provision for renewal, meaning that 2018 will be the final season for Rocky Mountain Raceways.

Young Automotive Group reportedly looked at several options before conceding defeat, but purchasing additional property and building a new facility wasn’t economically feasible. The State of Utah, the Utah Sports Commission, and West Valley City were all approached with the idea of turning the track into a public venture, but none of the entities approached expressed interest in maintaining the facility as a motorsport park.

The track’s final season should prove to be a busy one, with over 140 events planned across all three of the park’s tracks. General manager Mike Eames had this to say about the track and its closure:

Since this venue opened, so many memories have been made here. Life-long friendships have been created. People have met here through racing, developed their own love story, and are now married with children. If the Young Automotive Group didn’t create this incredible place, none of those memories would have been possible. We look forward to creating as many new memories as possible during our 2018 season.”

In other Utah motorsport park news, a longstanding lawsuit between Tooele County and Center Point Management over the fate of the Utah Motorsports Campus was recently settled, but it remains unclear if previous buyer Mitime Investment & Development Group remains interested in purchasing the facility. In 2015, Tooele County sold the park to Mitime—a subsidiary of China’s Geely, which also owns Volvo—prompting the lawsuit from Center Point.

Center Point’s lawsuit alleged that because the monetary portion of its bid for the track was higher, it should have been given possession of the facility. Looking at the potential for overall development and long-term growth, the county awarded the track to Mitime, which promised expansion of the facility and a push to turn Utah into a tourist destination for Chinese citizens.

Despite the ongoing litigation, Utah Motorsports Campus, Inc. was established by Mitime to operate the park for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but in January of 2017 Mitime backed away from the deal, citing the pending lawsuit and the county’s inability to settle.

Though the suit has now been resolved, it isn’t yet clear if Mitime will resume its attempt to purchase the park. Without a strong financial backer, it’s equally unclear if Utah Motorsports Park can continue operations into 2018.