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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2015 8:05 pm 
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Event planner upset over lack of response from Heartland Park Topeka officials on track's schedule

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
Rob Wilkie booked a drag racing event and car show at Heartland Park Topeka in November and began promoting it on the Internet.

More than 120 cars are expected to be at the event, bringing more than 200 people to Topeka to eat, drink, shop and stay in local hotels, Wilkie said.

Five months after booking the event, Wilkie became frustrated because he couldn’t get anyone from the facility to answer his phone calls or Facebook messages about the event.

Takeover Topeka Show N Go, an event sponsored by Pontiac G8/GTO Holden Cars, is slated for June 5 and 6.

“I had chosen Topeka because it was the most centrally located drag strip in the country,” said Wilkie, of Minnesota. “I didn’t even know about this whole track issue at the time.”

The “track issue” Wilkie is referring to is the future of the financially troubled Heartland Park racing facility.

The former city council had approved every proposal it considered to proceed with the purchase of the facility. However, with four new city council members being sworn in earlier this week, things aren’t quite so certain.

The current governing body will vote May 5 on whether to proceed with the purchase.

Topeka city manager Jim Colson said Tuesday after governing body members hear a presentation and discuss the proposed purchase at their April 21 meeting, the city plans to hold at least one public town hall meeting before the vote.

While current Heartland Park owner Raymond Irwin in February released a tentative 2015 schedule, he said Friday morning the facility is “being cautious.”

“I don’t know where we’re going to be with the city,” Irwin said.

Irwin said the NHRA Summer Nationals will take place as planned May 22-24. However, there will be a new owner soon, and it will be up to the new owner to schedule events.

The city declined to comment on the situation, said Aly Van Dyke, spokeswoman for the city.

Irwin referred scheduling questions to Mike Walker, who served as facilities and operations manager for Heartland Park until December.

Walker said he reached out to Irwin via Facebook on Friday.

“It all comes down to everything being up in the air with the city,” Walker said. “We have other events scheduled, too. We will try to accommodate and do all the events we have.”

Irwin had received a friend request from Walker by noon, he said. The two spoke, and Irwin said the facility is “hopeful” it will be able to host the event.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 7:37 pm 
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Heartland Park sales-tax plan insufficient to meet annual bond payments

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
A City Hall strategy to rescue Topeka taxpayers from millions of dollars in old debt associated with the beleaguered Heartland Park racetrack falls $550,000 short of meeting bond payment obligations in the initial five years of the deal.

That previously undisclosed gap, city officials said, would have to be made up with local property taxes.

A Kansas Open Records Act request also revealed intent of the Kansas Department of Commerce, for the first time, to withhold sales tax revenue generated by a retailer in a STAR bond district from being used to service debt on an economic development project. In terms of Heartland Park, Walmart wouldn’t help pay bond debt.

Meanwhile, a city official said it had been unwise to promote without verification a Heartland Park consultant’s claim the track was responsible for $160 million annually in economic benefits. The impact may be overstated by two-thirds.

Long-term focus

In response to KORA requests, the state released a document demonstrating state and city sales tax designated to pay old and new Heartland Park bond obligations would be insufficient to consistently meet annual requirements until 2019. Over 11 years, it would miss the mark in years two through five.

Topeka City Attorney Chad Sublet said information city staff shared with the public during the past 10 months on Heartland Park didn’t include the year-by-year analysis revealing local taxpayers would be on the hook for the $550,000 shortfall.

He said financial disclosures by city officials focused on a pledge to address all bond debt affiliated with the motorsports complex by 2025.

“Our interest was assuring the public, the council, anybody that would listen, this is a plan to address our debt service problem over 11 years," Sublet said.

Doug Gerber, the city's director of administrative and financial services, said drawing upon state tax revenue to pay the bulk of the debt while filling shortages with Topeka property tax revenue was preferable to the city absorbing entirety of debt on the racetrack bonds.

Topeka is ineligible for additional state money to pay previous STAR bonds without issuing a supplemental set of STAR bonds, he said.

“This is in the long-term best financial interest of the city,” Gerber said. “I'm way more comfortable with that than having an $8.2 million deficit, which is what we have now. I'll take those numbers anytime.”

Gut check

Information about the repayment issue surfaced as the Topeka City Council prepared for a presentation Tuesday by city administrators on the quest to save Heartland Park by satisfying financial demands of racetrack operator Ray Irwin of Jayhawk Racing as well as expectations of CoreFirst Bank and Trust, which is owed millions of dollars by Irwin.

Topeka City Manager Jim Colson scheduled a vote May 5 by the council — four members recently took office — to determine whether a majority favored proceeding with framework of the deal negotiated by representatives of CoreFirst, Jayhawk Racing, City Hall and the Department of Commerce.

The city of Topeka, which owns the combination dirt-, drag- and road-racing property, would be solely responsible for paying existent STAR bonds if CoreFirst exercised its right to foreclose on Irwin. The city is keen to buy out Irwin’s “reversionary” interest in the track, which gives him the right to claim the property after all bond debt was satisfied.

If the city council commits to bonding, Colson would submit a final STAR bond application to the commerce department. The city would move to wrap negotiations with a company capable of managing the track. Bonds would be issued. CoreFirst and Irwin would be compensated. The city would obtain clear title to the Topeka track that opened in 1989.

Colson said the objective was to provide an opportunity for Heartland Park to serve as “a world-class motorsports venue.”


Big money, fight

Fate of Heartland Park has been the focus of legal, financial and political intrigue since the city council formally took up the STAR bond concept in June. An appeal of lower court decisions in litigation resulting from an attempt to compel a public vote on the deal is pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat who requested a legislative audit of the Heartland Park proposal, said the controversy demonstrated necessity of amending state law governing STAR bonds. He said reform was needed to guarantee cities and counties were held accountable when bonding commercial, entertainment or tourism developments.

“There’s no question they’ve used faulty numbers to make it look better than it is,” Hensley said.

In 2006, the city issued $10.4 million in STAR bonds for Heartland Park. Tax revenue projections regarding payment of that debt were flawed. The city’s annual subsidy on those bonds ranged from $241,000 in 2011 to $682,000 in 2008. Without intervention, the city’s subsidy could balloon to $800,000 annually.

If $5 million in new sales tax revenue bonds were issued in 2015, the city would pay Irwin $2.4 million and CoreFirst would receive $1.9 million.

Overall, the state would contribute $16.4 million in sales tax revenue to service public debt on the complex. The city of Topeka would provide $1.6 million from sales taxes and fill gaps with property taxes.

Walmart anomaly

Documents obtained under KORA included a series of emails tied to work by the Legislature's auditing division.

In a March report, auditors concluded the Heartland Park project was atypical but eligible for STAR bonds. The oddity was that new bonds were sought to save a destination venue rather than create a fresh attraction. Auditors challenged elements of the Heartland Park plan and issued recommendations for strengthening Kansas law guiding issuance of STAR bonds. A reform bill is pending in the Senate.

The emails indicated the commerce department has been developing an unprecedented repayment map for the Heartland Park bonds.

The project requires geographic expansion of the district from which state and city sales tax revenue would be diverted to pay old and new STAR bonds. The district would extend north along Topeka Boulevard to capture two major revenue generators in the vicinity of 37th Street — Walmart and the Bozarth automobile dealership.

Commerce Secretary Pat George has yet to make a final ruling on the map, but the state and city appear to have agreed sales tax revenue from Walmart shouldn’t apply to retiring Heartland Park’s debt. That cash will continue flowing to the state’s treasury.

“STAR bonds give the secretary a great deal of latitude and discretion in administering the program,” said Matt Keith, a spokesman for the agency.

Emails revealed the Kansas Department of Revenue recommended the bond-repayment map be modified to expel Walmart rather than pursue the administrative adjustment.

Mistaken stat

The city officially projected sales tax revenue in the newly defined Heartland Park district would grow 1 percent annually.

However, communications divulged through KORA indicated a city employee calculated annual sales tax growth in the zone to be 0.5 percent in the previous decade. That was an error, said a city spokeswoman, who indicated the correct rate stood at 3 percent.

Gerber, the city’s director of administration and finance, said 1 percent was appropriately viewed as conservative “especially as we’re trending upward.”

The rate projection is significant because a 1 percent adjustment resulted in the projected deficit in four of 11 years in the amount of $550,000. Slicing the rate in half would produce a sales tax revenue deficit in 10 of 11 years totaling $925,000.

Without Walmart contributing to bond retirement, Bozarth must remain a viable business in its current location to make the Heartland Park venture succeed.

“We're pretty confident,” said Sublet, the city’s attorney. “They've also invested quite a bit of money in that facility in the last few years.”

“Could something catastrophic happen in the future?” Gerber said. “Of course.”

Exaggeration

For months, the city’s campaign to generate support for the STAR bond correction included statements declaring the racetrack contributed $160 million each year to the economy.

That statistic was drawn from a 2012 market research report prepared by Hedges & Co. Hedges was hired by Irwin’s Jayhawk Racing — the business with the most to gain if the bond deal goes through.

Sublet said state auditors indicated Heartland Park’s influence was far less than $160 million.

“What they said in post audit was we believe it’s a third of that,” Sublet said. “It's $53 million in economic impact.”

Legislative auditors pointed to “bias or slant” in the Hedges assessment and found there was “not clear and convincing evidence” to support the report’s central conclusion.

In response, auditors recommended the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback amend Kansas law to require economic impact studies related to STAR bond proposals to be conducted by independent firms selected by the commerce department.

The 50-50 split

The state’s STAR bond law dictates tax subsidies not constitute more than 50 percent of an economic development project’s cost. Current state law doesn’t penalize cities, counties and their private business partners that fail to comply.

Chris Imming, who led the legal fight to require a public vote on Heartland Park, said an October report on the previous STAR bonds showed Irwin was $3.4 million short of the minimum.

“The ignorance of the requirement, unwillingness to comply or inability to meet the requirement for the existing project should be a concern to Kansas Department of Commerce when considering approval of the city’s new request,” Imming said.

Initially, Topeka city officials and Jayhawk Racing’s attorney John Frieden proposed a novel method of matching the investment guideline on $5 million in new bonding.

They pointed to a $15.3 million appraisal of the motorsports facility and suggested that represented the actual value of Irwin’s reversionary interest. After the city used bond proceeds to pay Irwin and CoreFirst, they proposed, Irwin would contribute $5 million of his excess reversionary interest to the project. The commerce department and the Legislature’s auditors rejected the plan. In effect, Irwin would have been allowed to sell his interest in the track and count that as an investment in the track.

Frieden’s law firm submitted a letter to the commerce department in September listing 16 hypothetical upgrades to Heartland Park costing $5 million to $7 million. Contents of the document remained confidential until unearthed in February through a KORA filing.

Imming said the list submitted by Irwin’s attorney carried no legal weight but appears to have been accepted by the state as valid.

“The city council did not approve the amended project plan provided the Department of Commerce,” Imming said. “This is not a function that can be delegated.”


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:09 pm 
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Kansas City-area firm favored by city officials to lease Heartland Park

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
A Missouri businessman who held interest in a Kansas City drag strip closed in 2011 emerged Monday as the front-runner to lease Heartland Park in Topeka if the city council moves ahead with debt restructuring to save the motor sports complex.

The Topeka Capital-Journal learned city staff concluded newly created Shelby LLC, led by Monopoly Acquisitions’ executive Chris Payne of Raytown, Mo., was best equipped to breathe life into the dirt, drag and road racing facility operated for more than a decade by Jayhawk Racing’s Ray Irwin. City staff evaluated four applications submitted in December.

Payne was part of an investment group that owned Kansas City International Raceway, anchored by a drag strip, when it was sold for $1.5 million to Kansas City, Mo. KCIR was acquired by the city to build a public park.

Monopoly Acquisitions is primarily associated with commercial buildings, strip malls and apartment dwellings, but Payne’s background includes the KCIR ownership and time behind the wheel of race cars.

In recent years, Payne attempted to purchase Heartland Park and explored the potential of constructing a new track in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

“We always had an eye on Topeka versus building another one in Kansas City,” Payne said. “We’ve kind of been waiting in the wings. We jumped at the opportunity ... to voice our interest in it.”

He said the Heartland Park situation contrasted with his KCIR experience because Topeka officials were motivated to build up the racing industry rather than maneuver as people did in Kansas City to shut down a track.

“This is a unique situation,” Payne said. “In my prior history of racing, I was fighting the city to race. It’s the complete opposite. I think that it’s great there are so many people trying to see that the track survives, including the city.”

A final decision on the management of Heartland Park and a series of pivotal financial arrangements must be approved by the Topeka City Council. With four new members on the council, a May 5 vote was scheduled to ascertain whether a majority want to proceed with a plan for the city to acquire clear title to Heartland Park before leasing or selling the property.

Details about the length of a potential lease or annual compensation paid to the city wasn’t disclosed pending future negotiations. Payne’s attorney, Wesley Carrillo, said the objective was the establishment of a lengthy business partnership with Topeka.

“Any lease terms are going to be long term,” Carrillo said. “We’re not looking at a year-to-year situation.”

Topeka City Attorney Chad Sublet confirmed a controversial financial guarantee to the National Hot Rod Association for races set for May would be dropped. In an attempt to retain NHRA’s presence at Heartland Park, the organization was guaranteed a return of $1.8 million by the city. If race revenue were to fall short, the city was obligated to pick up half of a net revenue deficit up to $900,000.

The evaluation process revealed Payne had the greatest potential to successfully operate Heartland Park and develop the property, said Doug Gerber, the city’s director of financial and administrative services. He said Payne’s notions about commercializing 270 acres of open ground around the track and his established contacts in the racing industry were points in his favor.

“Those are the three factors that really made Shelby stand out among all the proposals,” Gerber said.

Payne said he had contemplated the potential of adding a motorcycle dirt track, a convenience store affiliated with a chain restaurant, the rental of large storage units and leasing of warehouse facilities to automotive companies engaged in research and development.

Under a strategy initially advanced last year but peppered by controversy, Topeka City Manager Jim Colson recommended the city and state collaborate on issuance of $5 million in a special type of municipal bond to provide cash necessary to buy Irwin’s residual interest in the track and cover Irwin’s track debt to a Topeka bank.

Obtaining an unchallenged title to Heartland Park would allow payment of new bond debt and more than $8 million in old bond debt with a combination of state and city sales taxes. It is possible local property tax revenue would be required to fill year-to-year revenue shortages, depending on the final repayment schedule.

The intent is to pay Irwin $2.4 million for his “reversionary” interest in Heartland Park and allocate $1.9 million to cover Irwin’s default on debt at CoreFirst Bank and Trust. The city owns the racing facility, but needs to acquire Irwin’s reversionary right to claim the Heartland Park property when all bond debt was paid around 2025.

Payne’s company wouldn’t assume responsibilities at Heartland Park until after completion of the bonding transaction in mid-2015, the city’s attorney said. Sublet said any contract with Payne wouldn’t include a reversionary interest.

Sublet also said elected officials on the city council and the general public would have opportunities to pose questions and comments about the evolving Heartland Park proposal.

“The governing body has got to weigh in,” he said. “We want the citizens to weigh in as well.”

Topeka resident Chris Imming, who attempted to force a public vote on the Heartland Park deal, has a pending appeal of lower court decisions before the Kansas Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Legislature’s auditing arm completed in March an analysis of the idea of issuing a second set of State Tax Revenue Bonds for Heartland Park. Revenue from the racing facility was inadequate to meet expectations when $10 million in STAR bonds were sold for Heartland Park in 2006. The city has been subsidizing repayment of those bonds for years.

State auditors concluded expansion of the bond repayment district beyond Heartland Park could generate sufficient revenue to pay both sets of bonds. Auditors emerged from that review with a set of recommendations for reform of Kansas law on STAR bonds to hold municipalities and private business partners more accountable.

Topeka city officials also assessed bids submitted by MK Investments; Larry Sinks; and International Motorsports Entertainment and Development Corp.

In February, individuals involved in MK Investments sold a stake in Lakeside Speedway. Michael Johnson and his wife, Kyle Johnson, agreed to sell their interest in that track to business partners Don and Donna Marrs after the Marrs’ leveled fraud allegations against the Johnsons.

Sinks was owner of JoeCollege.com, which in 2008 was ordered to pay Kansas Athletics Inc. $660,000 in attorney fees and expenses resulting from a legal dispute over his KU-themed T-shirts.

IMEDC, based in Coon Rapids, Minn., had been active in developing NASCAR and NHRA complexes in the Midwest.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:54 pm 
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Here are images from the presentation materials at the Topeka City Council meeting:

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:55 pm 
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One of the concerns voiced in the Heartland Park STAR bond issue is that the citizens Topeka should have a vote in the city owning the racetrack. Well guess what? They already did....

Thanks to Topeka Capital-Journal for the research on this. On April 4th, 1987 the residents of Topeka voted 13,289 to 12,579 to issue $7.5 in bonds to build what would become Heartland Park Topeka.


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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 9:26 pm 
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Topeka City Council votes down measure to move ahead with Heartland Park purchase. Foreclosure imminent.

Before we get into the bad news I would like to recognize those that came forward to support Heartland Park Topeka. Speaking in front of a large audience and on camera is no small task. In honor of the people who stepped into the arena tonight; Kraig Bailey, Suzie Mears, Bryan Cohn, Chuck Hanna, Elyse McKinnon, Gary Vonderschmidt, and Rob Parks. When the stakes were highest these people rose to the challenge. I'd go to hell for every one of them. I will sleep well tonight knowing that I gave it my best.


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Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
After months of divisive deliberation, the Topeka City Council on Tuesday voted against a resolution that would have allowed the city to proceed with its purchase of the financially troubled Heartland Park Topeka racetrack.

The council’s governing body of nine members and Mayor Larry Wolgast voted 6-4 against the resolution, which required a six-vote majority for approval, during a three-hour city council meeting.

The measure would have allowed city manager Jim Colson “to proceed with the implementation of the Heartland Park Redevelopment Project Plan including, but not limited to, the sale of additional STAR Bonds estimated to be between $4.8 and $5.5 million.”

Wolgast voted in favor of the measure, along with council members Michelle De La Isla, Brendan Jensen and Karen Hiller.

“I believe that this proposal has the best chance of protecting the pocketbooks of Topeka taxpayers while giving Heartland Park Topeka an opportunity to prove it can return to contributing to our city’s economy,” the mayor said.

Council members Sandra Clear, Sylvia Ortiz, Jonathan Schumm, Elaine Schwartz, Jeff Coen and Richard Harmon opposed the measure.

Schwartz asked city leaders, including Colson, a litany of questions, saying she has been misled by them.

“I’m going to vote against this,” Schwartz said. “I polled my own district and it came back three-to-one against.”

Clear, of District 2, and Schumm, of District 4, said their constituents are also opposed to the purchase, and they would vote against it for that reason.

“I want a racetrack in Topeka,” Schumm said. “I simply do not want a racetrack owned by Topeka.”

District 8 Councilman Coen criticized ambiguities with the Heartland Park purchase before telling those in attendance he would vote against.

“Business deals need to be airtight but should also be easy to understand,” Coen said.

Wolgast acknowledged that the city could have handled the Heartland Park matter better but said past failures informing the public shouldn’t justify voting against the measure.

“The handling of this process could have been done better,” Wolgast said. “We could have engaged the community from the beginning better and shared complete information on a more timely basis.”

Nine people lined up to speak before the council made its vote, eight of whom were in favor of the motion. They included Topeka residents and nonresidents, including many who conduct business at the track.

“The doors are open. You have motor sports, you have that money coming to your community,” said Brian Cohn with the National Auto Sport Association. “Vote for and you get my 15,000 drivers to spend their money here.”

Before the governing body voted on the motion, they voted down a measure by Ortiz to defer the vote for six months. The amendment was defeated by a 9-1 vote, with Ortiz dissenting.

Topeka city officials have said they will need about $5 million in reissued STAR Bonds to purchase the track, but the proposal before council members Tuesday night granted Colson flexibility to seek up to $5.5 million in bonds for the purchase.

Colson had suggested the city government contract with Shelby LLC, a company recently formed by Missouri real estate developer Chris Payne, to lease and operate Heartland Park. Ortiz said last month she wouldn’t vote in favor of the deal if she didn’t have a signed operating agreement with Shelby in front of her before Tuesday’s vote. Colson said April 29 that wasn’t feasible.

Tuesday’s vote followed two public meetings on the matter late last month. At the first, held at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library on April 28, Shelby LLC attorney Wes Carrillo said the company plans to release Heartland Park’s financials for each of the first three years Shelby would operate it, so people will know how much money it has made or lost.

The Topeka City Council voted in 2006 to issue $10.46 million in STAR bonds to finance improvements at Heartland Park. Though plans called for those bonds to be paid off using sales tax revenue from the area near the track, revenue consistently has come up short.

Colson said last June that about $10.8 million in principal and interest remained to be paid on the STAR bonds, and the city was on track to be forced to pay $8.9 million in subsidies toward those bonds during the next 12 years.

On Aug. 8, 2014, the council voted 9-1 to buy the Heartland Park Topeka racing facility and expand its redevelopment district. Councilman Chad Manspeaker cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he wasn’t certain the moves were “the best deal for the citizens of Topeka.”

Council members then approved every measure put before them to advance the purchase between Aug. 12 and Tuesday night.

Public wariness of the city’s proposed purchase overshadowed the April 7 city council election, which saw the ouster of both incumbent candidates, District 2 Councilman TJ Brown and District 8 Councilman Nathan Schmidt. Brown and Schmidt had cast votes in favor of the purchase and each cited their tentative support of the deal as factors in their defeat.

Two other incumbents — District 4’s Denise Everhart and District 6’s Manspeaker — didn’t seek re-election. The result was a nine-member council with four new members being sworn in weeks before deciding one of the most heated issues facing the city.

The Heartland Park purchase has been delayed and nearly stymied by a petition effort launched after the August vote by Chris Imming. Imming’s petition drive gained more than the required number of signatures needed to put the city’s purchase of Heartland Park on a ballot for a citywide election, but the city filed a lawsuit challenging its legality. In November, Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks sided with the city, ruling the petition invalid and prompting a number of appeals and challenges by Imming and his attorney, R.E. “Tuck” Duncan.

Some questions arose Tuesday night over the National Hot Rod Association’s annual Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park from May 22 to 24. NHRA media relations director Anthony Vestal told The Topeka Capital-Journal on April 29 that the NHRA was proceeding with plans to put on that event. Those plans don’t include Raymond Irwin, whose Jayhawk Racing LLC currently owns Heartland Park, according to Colson.

Sublet acknowledged that the city’s contract with the NHRA was terminated Monday.

“There is no contract between the city and NHRA,” Sublet said. “NHRA has been a willing participant with Heartland Park and the city for some time.”


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:13 pm 
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Water Cut Off At Heartland Park

WIBW wrote:
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The Financial problems at Heartland Park Topeka have been documented for months, but until last week just about everything was working. "The city has shut of water to Heartland Park and that was done later last week," said City Financial Services Director Doug Gerber.

This latest, ominous news comes as the future the track remains up in the air.

Jayhawk Racing LLC owed an outstanding water bill in the amount of $58,000 before the NHRA Nationals event occurred over Memorial Day weekend.

Gerber said, "That number is off the most recent bill and we have not been paid since August of 2013."

The city council recently reversed a decision to issue sales tax revenue bonds to buy heartland park and improve the area around it. During discussions, Jayhawk Racing had said CoreFirst Bank could foreclose on the facility at any time.

Still, the NHRA footed the bill for the summer nationals event to take place and expressed hope someone would step up to save the facility. Now, in order for future events to take place with the faucets turned on, the city says someone needs to pay up. "As with any property in the city, if you have an outstanding water bill and you need to get it turned back on, you have to work with the city and pay your outstanding debt," said Gerber.

Reversing Course

Early in May, the Topeka City Council voted six to four against moving forward with its plans to use five million dollars in STAR bonds to purchase Heartland Park and improve the district commercially.

That was a far different result than the 7-3 vote last December that initially gave the green light to the city to buy the bonds. In the six months between the two votes, a highly-publicized petition drive to put the issue to a public vote ended up being decided in the courts.

More importantly, Topeka voters sent two of the councilmen who had voted yes packing which, when combined with fellow supporter Denise Everhart also stepping down, freed up three council seats that were filled by opponents of the proposal.

The day after the council put its plans permanently in park, the company who was in talks to manage the track said it "back, weigh our options and move forward accordingly

An Uncertain Future

The NHRA Nationals came to town later that month - possibly for the last time. After the vote, drag racing association terminated its contract with the city and hosted the event itself.

So, for now, the future of the track remains open. City leaders and race fans throughout northeast Kansas cross their fingers hoping a new solution will be found and the lights will once again turn green at Heartland Park


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:50 pm 
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NHRA revs up support for Topeka divisional doubleheader

NHRA Press Release wrote:
In a show of support for NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Sportsman racing in general and to the Topeka/Kansas City racing community specifically, NHRA Division 5 Director Rob Park and NHRA are pulling out all the stops for the upcoming Division 5 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series doubleheader at Heartland Park Topeka.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Doubleheader Weekend presented by Aeromotive will feature back-to-back divisional events, Aug. 13-14 (Thursday and Friday) and Aug. 15-16 (Saturday and Sunday), preceded by a test ’n’ tune day, Wednesday, Aug. 12. And with a large contingent of Sportsman racers expected to take advantage of the doubleheader weekend in pursuit of national and divisional championships, NHRA’s world-famous NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA will be on hand to ensure that the racing surface is in top-notch condition. Safety-Kleen also will be on hand for the event, providing cleanup materials and its familiar oil-containment stations.

“This doubleheader weekend is something that our racers have been asking for, especially because it allows them to save on travel costs,” said Park. “We’re also aware of the rumors about the event and about the facility, and we wanted to send a message to everyone in that area, and to Sportsman racers in general, about NHRA’s commitment to them. The Safety Safari is coming directly to the event from Seattle [after the NHRA Northwest Nationals], which is no small feat considering it’s a 27-hour trip, but we put two-driver teams in place to get them to the facility in time to get the track ready for Wednesday’s test ’n’ tune. They’ll bring their full complement of equipment — our tractors, draggers, Power Bosses sweeper trucks, and spray rigs — and we’ll have five of the full-time Safari members overseeing everything.

“We know that racers from all divisions will be represented at this event because it’s a good fit for racers on their way to Brainerd [the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals the following weekend] or getting ready for Indy [the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals]. It’s going to be a great race.”

Earlier this year, NHRA made a tremendous team effort in Topeka to stage the annual NHRA Kansas Nationals after the Topeka City Council voted against a resolution that would have allowed the city to proceed with the purchase of the facility. NHRA never wavered in its support of the event and put operational team members on the ground at the facility to make preparations for the race weekend and handled the advertising and promotional campaigns. The event was completed in spectacular fashion with record-breaking runs and a great crowd, and NHRA is showing the same kind of unwavering dedication to the divisional events.

Heartland Park Topeka also will host the Division 5 Summit Racing Series Finals, Sept. 18-20, where more than 600 of the region’s best e.t. bracket racers will converge for the chance to win divisional championships and the opportunity to compete for national championships later this year in Pomona.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:51 pm 
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Someone paid Heartland Park Topeka's water bill, but parties keeping mum

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
Someone paid off Heartland Park Topeka’s more than $60,000 debt to the city of Topeka, but it isn’t clear who picked up the tab — or whether the track is any closer to reopening.

The city of Topeka confirmed it had received a $61,415.29 payment for the racetrack’s water bill, which included $224 in penalties. No one had requested that the water be turned back on at this point, according to the city. If service were turned back on, the track would begin paying the monthly meter charge.

The debt was paid with a cashier’s check from CoreFirst Bank & Trust, which owns the track’s mortgage. City officials weren’t certain whether CoreFirst had paid the debt from its own funds, or if another entity with an account there, such as operator Jayhawk Racing, had taken out the cashier’s check.

Kurt Kuta, president and CEO of CoreFirst, declined to comment on whether the bank had a role in resolving the water debt. He said the process of finding a new operator for the track was “moving along,” but that it was too early to give more details.

Raymond Irwin, who operates Jayhawk Racing, declined to comment on who had paid the water bill, or whether the track was any closer to reopening.

The racetrack had been closed since the National Hot Rod Association put on the Mello Yello Racing Series Kansas Nationals over Memorial Day weekend, and the city of Topeka shut off water service after the races. The NHRA announced earlier this month that it plans to hold drag racing events at Heartland Park in August and September, and will pay any expenses for those events.

“If such a request is made, the City would work with the appropriate parties to have water service restored,” the release said. “The City has had discussions with the NHRA regarding restoring water services for these events; however, no determination has yet been made.”

The track’s future has been unclear for months. A plan to issue $5.5 million in Sales Tax Revenue bonds to purchase Irwin’s interest in the track and pay off both the more than $10 million in STAR bonds issued in 2006 and the track’s debt, including a mortgage with CoreFirst Bank & Trust, ran into more public opposition than city officials apparently expected. Topekan Chris Imming led a petition drive to invalidate the purchase agreement, which gathered enough signatures for a public vote but was declared invalid in court.

The city council declined to issue the STAR bonds in May. The NHRA event over Memorial Day went on as scheduled, though the facilities were damaged when a worker drove a dump truck onto a pedestrian bridge, causing it to collapse.

A Holton dirt track driver announced about three weeks ago that he would attempt to raise $5 million to purchase the track and work with local racing fans to run it. As of 8:30 a.m. Friday, his GoFundMe page, http://www.gofundme.com/heartlandpark, had raised $125 from 10 contributors.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 5:06 am 
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Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:58 am
Posts: 58
Location: Gateway To The West - St. Louis
Good news for Heartland Park??!!

http://cjonline.com/news/2015-12-17/chr ... ark-topeka

Let's hope the new owners repave the notoriously rough road course.

Feff


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