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Utah Motorsports Campus sells to Geely subsidiary Mitime Utah Investment, LLC

Published in blog.hemmings.com

An aerial view of the Utah Motorsports Campus site. Photo courtesy Utah Motorsports Campus.

In August 2015, Tooele County, Utah, accepted a bid from the Mitime Investment and Development Group — a division of Chinese automaker Geely — to acquire the 511-acre property and racetrack formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park. A lawsuit from another bidder followed, kicking off a four-year odyssey that ended on November 5, when Tooele County agreed to sell the facility to Geely division Mitime Utah Investment, LLC.

Miller Motorsports Park was the dream of Utah businessman Larry H. Miller, though his initial idea was to build a smaller and simpler private test track in the Utah desert. Feedback from auto industry contacts and local racers led Miller to believe there was opportunity in creating a world-class motorsport facility in Utah, and in 2006 the track — located off highway 112, northwest of Tooele, opened to the public. It soon won accolades, including an award for Motorsports Facility of the Year from the Motorsports World Expo in Cologne, Germany.

Miller Motorsports Park featured a track designed by Alan Wilson, the former director of SCCA’s Pro Racing series and chief steward for CART, whose other design credits include Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Gingerman Raceway in Michigan, and the redesign of Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec. The construction costs reportedly totaled $85 million, a figure that did not include the land itself, which was leased from Tooele County.

Larry H. Miller died in February 2009, and when the lease for Miller Motorsports Park came up for renewal in 2015, the Larry H. Miller Group opted not to renew it. Accolades and awards don’t necessarily translate into ticket sales or track rentals, and despite playing host to major sports car and motorcycle racing series (plus the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School), Miller Motorsports Park failed to turn a profit from 2006 through 2014. The land, with its considerable improvements, fell back to Tooele County.

Bids to take over the facility were solicited, and Mitime was originally named as the buyer. Its bid — reportedly $20 million — was less than one submitted by Center Point Management, but the Mitime proposal included an expansion of the facility that would bring additional jobs to the economically depressed area. Center Point Management filed suit against Tooele County in September 2015, and in December 2015, a district court judge vacated the sale to Mitime.

By then, Mitime had already taken over operations of the track, so, to honor the agreements for 2016, the company was granted a single-year lease until a new bid process could be orchestrated. The lease was extended through 2017 as well, and in June 2017 the track’s sale — this time to the highest bidder — was again announced. Since then, little had been written about the track’s status or ownership, but on November 5, 2018, it was announced that the Tooele County Commissioners had voted to sell the Utah Motorsports Campus to Mitime Utah Investment, LLC. The price was not disclosed, though the Deseret News put the transaction value at roughly $18.5 million.

Geely is the largest private automaker in China, and the company’s holdings include foreign automotive marques Volvo, the Volvo performance brand Polestar, Lotus (and its former parent, Proton), taxicab builder The London Electric Vehicle Company, and flying car manufacturer Terrafugia. The company also owns 9.7 percent of Daimler-Benz, making it the largest shareholder, plus 8.2 percent of truck and construction conglomerate Volvo Group.

Geely is heavily invested in motorsports as well. In addition to (now) owning Utah Motorsports Campus, the company has plans to build an additional 10 comparably sized facilities across China, including the Ningbo International Circuit, which opened in 2017. The company is also involved in the FIA Chinese Formula 4 Championship and is poised to enter the FIA World Touring Car Championship with its Chinese-Swedish automotive brand Lynk & Company.

William Geyer, the CEO of UMC, wasted no time in talking about expansion of the site, saying,

We are really excited about the future of UMC, and we have significant plans for the facility. We are studying the viability of adding various race tracks, entertainment venues, and supporting infrastructure that will not only solidify our position as one of Utah’s major entertainment facilities but also ensure that UMC will be a profitable venture for the first time in its history.

The sale includes the 511-acre property, 4.438-mile reconfigurable racetrack, 0.9-mile reconfigurable kart track, an off-road short course, a rock-crawling course, a rallycross track (which debuted at the 2018 Nitro World Games), plus all buildings and physical structures. For more information, including a list of upcoming events, visit UtahMotorsportsCampus.com.