Michigan Short Track Racing Club: Track Owner: Change is needed to stay in business - Michigan Short Track Racing Club

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Track Owner: Change is needed to stay in business Story from Owosso Argus Press

#1 User is offline   kaycorbgm Icon

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 06:04 PM

MIDDLEBURY TWP. — Owosso Speedway owner Dave Bigos is asking county officials to help him find a way for "The Big O" to remain open and profitable.
According to Bigos, who spoke to the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners this past week, Owosso Speedway has suffered deep losses for several years — due in large part to a consent judgment signed in April 2003 by its former owners, which limits times and days the track may be used. Bigos requested a meeting with government officials at the commissioners' session Thursday, in order to negotiate changes to those restrictions and convince a judge to alter the deal.

"I can't survive under this consent judgment any more, I just can't," Bigos told the board. "I've lost money, repetitively, for the past four or five years. The past year or two, it's been deep. I can't continue like this." Under the terms of the agreement, only auto racing is allowed at Owosso Speedway. The racing season is limited to April 15 and Oct. 1, and races may only take place on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Practices are only allowed on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons, with only one car allowed on the track at a time. No other types of vehicle racing — such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, trucks or quadrunners — is allowed. Violations of the consent judgment result in a $400 fine.

The agreement was signed by Karl Keifer and Donnie Shaw, who sold the property to Bigos and the late Ron Hauser in late 2003. Bigos said while he was not involved at the time, it was his understanding that disputes between the Speedway's owners and its neighbors is what led to the judgment in the first place. "I think part to the problem was they were running any day of the week they wanted," Bigos said. "They didn't have a curfew — they were having shows going until 4 in the morning. … It was kind of, for lack of a better word, out of control."
The track operates as a grandfathered non-conforming use that was in operation prior to current zoning. Such non-conforming uses may not be expanded.

Issues under Shaw's and Keifer's tenure also included the construction of a motocross track that operated on different days than auto racing.
Bigos said he has done his part to be a good neighbor, but changing consumer tastes have made auto racing at "The Big O" less profitable than it used to be. He would like to pursue a wide variety of different offerings at the track — everything from flea markets to mud bogs to truck shows — but he is limited by the consent agreement. "I don't want to do all kinds of crazy stuff … each and every event would be of good nature and positive nature for our community from a social and economic standpoint," Bigos said.

"What worked 20 years ago doesn't work today," he added. "Short-track racing, over the past several years, is deteriorating. Local people are not into it the way they were in the '70s. Back then, it was a lucrative, viable business." In addition, Bigos said, the Saturday night restriction unfairly limits the speedway when it comes to auto racing. He claims there is no other racetrack in the state forced to abide by similar conditions.
"We had four rainouts this year. There's 24 Saturdays in my year, typically," Bigos said. "I'm better off to close the racetrack a couple of nights a year than I am to open it up and lose money. If I spend money on advertising and promoting, and I get rained out, I can't run on Sundays."
Bigos said he sees two different options; rezoning the property from its current agricultural designation to a business designation, or getting a special use permit that would supercede the judge's order.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeremy Root, as well as other commissioners, agreed to meet with Bigos to figure out what to do next.
"I think the next step should be, you and I need to meet with (County Community Development Director) Pete Preston, we see what's feasible," Root said. "He's going to have the expertise in community development and zoning. We'll get with him and address your concerns. I think everyone on the board wants to see business in the county" … "especially my 10-year-old son, who loves going out to the track," finished Commissioner Dan McMaster.

Owosso Speedway has a long and storied history in the area. It began as a quarter-mile dirt track in 1939. In 1944 and 1945, it was closed for racing and used as a prisoner of war camp, housing German POWs as "Camp Owosso." Racing resumed in 1946 with the addition of a new half-mile dirt oval surrounding the quarter-mile dirt track. Over the years, some people called Owosso Speedway "the fastest half-mile dirt track in the world." Both tracks were later paved, then went back to dirt.The speedway was closed in 1988 and 1989 to convert the half-mile and quarter mile tracks to its current setup, a 3/8-mile high-banked asphalt track.

Well-known names to grace the track include Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Gordon Johncock, Mark Martin and Tim Felver.
"If you've never been out there, it's a family," Bigos said. "There's a rooted love for the sport. But it doesn't attract new people — there are people in this town who have never been there before."
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#2 User is offline   kaycorbgm Icon

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 06:06 PM

This says it all. Dave is trying to keep things going at our Beloved track - Owosso Speedway. Our hands are tied in many ways and have been for many years. This is a step in the
right direction!
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#3 User is offline   Verwayne Icon

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 06:38 PM

Thanks for posting this Elaine.
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#4 User is offline   GavinHunyady187 Icon

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 08:16 AM

doesnt rezoning mean they lose tax exemptions?

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#5 User is offline   BigEd Icon

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 09:17 AM

I was part of that original deal, there was NO other way back then to move forward. Donny and Karl had no choice but to sign and live by the agreement set forth by the township AND the County. It was much different even then, just 10-15 years ago. I can remember getting with Super Dave and finding proof that the track had run on almost every day of the week during it's lifetime, just to be able to justify being open more than just one day (Saturday) a week. Originally, that was the deal, JUST SATURDAY. We did a lot of fighting and appealing to get the deal that is still in place today, that was a lifesaver then, but it ties Dave's hands today.

Things have changed over the years since that agreement was made. The neighbors that did the majority of the complaining back in 01, 02 and 03 do not even live near the track anymore. Which was the basis of most every township and county grievance ever set in motion against the track. What's that ole cliche?? 5% of the people are 95% of the problem?? Dave has communicated with most of the home owners within a mile or two of the track and received great response and support from most of them.

I'm very glad to see Dave make the proper steps to try and make our track more viable, and profitable. You can only lose money for so long before you run out, no matter how much you have.

All I can say is that Dave has my full support.
Spartan Speedway Announcer since 2003
Owosso Speedway Announcer 1999-2002, then 2014 till ???
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Posted 15 March 2018 - 12:18 PM

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 03:07 PM

Obviously Dave is pushing hard to get things changed with the local government. I just hope that "fight" won't cost him some in 2018 by it taking so long.

It is now April 2nd, 16 days before the opening test and tune, and there is no schedule out yet. Even if things need to be firmed with the city, why not put out a provisional schedule with a caveat that it is subject to change? I would rather have a rough idea vs. none at all...
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