BY ED GODFREY •
Modified: December 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm •
Published: December 15, 2009
State Fair Speedway is apparently no more.
The state fairgrounds has likely seen its last motor race because $400,000 in electrical repairs must immediately be made before racing could be safely conducted next season, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Monday night.
And even if those repairs were made, more money would have to be invested into the aging track by 2012 to get the speedway into compliance with the federal American Disabilities Act, he said.
“They (State Fair Board) just don’t think it is a good investment,” Cornett said.
State Fair Speedway completed its 55th season of racing last summer. The decision was made long ago that it would remain open as long as racing could be safely conducted, but no more capital dollars would be invested in it, Cornett said.
“The track has served us well for 50 years, but it’s not the best place for racing the next 50 years,” Cornett said.
“The decision has long been made we were not going to invest more capital dollars in the track because of the wishes of the neighborhoods around it.”
Track promoter Lanny Edwards is not being offered a renewal on his lease. Edwards thinks the electrical issues are a smokescreen.
“They have dreamed all of this up in my opinion,” Edwards said. “They’ve been trying to get rid of that grandstand for quite some time. I think it’s a bad deal that they are doing the racing community this way.”
Edwards contends State Fair Board officials and city leaders simply want to abolish State Fair Speedway and replace it with something more profitable.
“They want a building over there that they can use 200 days a year, not 55 days a year (like State Fair Speedway),” said Edwards, who has leased the track for eight years.
Edwards, who is in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, has owned and operated race tracks for more than 40 years. He owns dirt tracks in Mesquite, Texas, and Lawton.
Cornett said the city is willing to work with a developer who might want to bring motor racing to Oklahoma City at another site.
But the neighborhoods around the state fairgrounds will not support a new race track there, he said.
“I am not oblivious to the up side and the economic impact (of having motor racing in Oklahoma City), but nor can I ignore the thousands of people that live near the track that put up with it in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and now another decade,” Cornett said.
Before weekly races began at State Fair Speedway in the late 1950s, drivers competed at Taft Stadium, approximately 3 miles north on May Avenue.