Heartland Park owner Irwin releases tentative 2015 schedule
Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
With every passing week there seems to be more uncertainty about the future of Heartland Park Topeka.
But HPT owner Raymond Irwin remains steadfast in his belief that the racing facility has a future, taking a leap of faith by releasing a tentative 2015 schedule.
“I think that the facility is way too important to the community and it’s way too important to the racing community as well for the activities not to occur out here,” Irwin said. “So we’ve gone ahead and put in the dates that people have requested — the traditional dates as well as certainly the NHRA event in May — and our other events.”
Irwin expressed optimism that HPT’s biggest event, the NHRA Kansas Nationals, will be take place May 22-24. This would be its 27th year at the Topeka complex.
Topeka attorney Chad Sublet said the city shared Irwin’s optimism that Heartland Park should have a racing schedule for 2015, despite the fact that a new owner hasn’t been identified and the track remains tied up in a legal battle.
Jayhawk Racing, Sublet said, “is the management company, until they’re not. They have the right to do that.”
Irwin reiterated that he won’t manage the track in 2015, but said it would be irresponsible for him not to have a schedule in place for the new track operator as well as racers and fans. Irwin said he knew people would be surprised with his decision to release a 2015 schedule, but it is his intention to have a smooth transition.
“We have a very strong schedule and it makes no sense to me, even as we continue to negotiate with the city and other entities for the operation of the facility, not to make sure that people know that we’re going to be open,” Irwin said. “I didn’t spend 12 years working to just walk away. I wasn’t raised that way, I wasn’t built that way. It would be irresponsible for me to just walk out the door like it never happened.”
The future of the 27-year-old motorsports complex now rests with a Kansas Court of Appeals panel, which on Feb. 26 is set to hear oral arguments from Irwin’s company, Jayhawk Racing, the city of Topeka and petitioner Chris Imming. That is two days before CoreFirst Bank & Trust is allowed to foreclose on the property, in accordance with a workout agreement between the bank, Irwin and the city.
Although the city anticipates the panel will issue a favorable decision within a few days of the hearing — clearing a path to issuing Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds within a few days of the deadline — the parties can agree to extending the agreement by 90 days.
Once the city has a clear path to issuing the bonds, it can move forward with its goal of finding a new management company, Sublet said. Four entities submitted applications, and the city continues to work with all of them, he said.
“Until we find out what the court’s going to say, we can’t have a contract with them,” Sublet said.
The city’s plan is to issue $5 million in new STAR bonds to acquire Heartland Park free and clear of any debt. That would allow the city to extend the district boundaries to capture enough state sales tax revenue, according to projections, to cover the $17 million debt without turning to city property taxes.
Irwin is slated to receive nearly half — $2.39 million — of the new STAR bond money. He is supposed to use those funds to pay back $300,000 to CoreFirst, $184,234 to the city of Topeka and an unknown amount to vendors. How much Irwin will end up with after those payments are made won’t be known until closing. Irwin has said he will make back some of his investment, which he estimated at more than $3 million, but “not all of it.”
Of the remaining bond money, $1.9 million would go to CoreFirst, $531,868.99 to the Small Business Administration, and $500,000 to the Department of Commerce.
The complex’s 2015 schedule includes HPT’s weekly dirt track schedule as well as road racing events and the bracket drag racing schedule. The schedule also includes a double Division V multi-state drag racing event as well as the multi-state ET Finals.
“I do believe that the community wants to see the success of Heartland Park Topeka, regardless of who might be operating it, and that’s what drives me to continue to do the things that I can do at this juncture to get to the finish line,” Irwin said.
HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA
TENTATIVE 2015 SCHEDULE
March: March 4, HPT Touring Club (road course); March 21, dirt track practice; March 28, dirt track practice.
April: April 1, HPT Touring Club (road course); April 4, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 11, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 18, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 25, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 25-26, HPT Bike Days (road course).
May: May 2, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 6, HPT Touring Club (road course); May 8, Street Legal drags; May 9, ET Bracket Series drag races; May 9, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 16, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 17 HPT Bike Day (road course); May 22-24, NHRA Kansas Nationals; May 29-31, SRT; May 30 Saturday Showdown dirt races.
June: June 3, HPT Touring Club (road course); June 6, Saturday Showdown dirt series; June 13-14, HPT Bike Days (road course); June 13, Saturday Showdown dirt series; June 20, Saturday Showdown dirt races; June 26, Street Legal drags; June 27-28, ET Bracket Series drag races; June 27, Saturday Showdown dirt races.
July: July 1 HPT Touring Club (road course); July 4, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 11, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 12, HPT Bike Day (road course); July 16, National Council of Corvettes; July 18, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 24, Street Legal drags; July 25-26, ET Bracket Series drag races; July 25, Saturday Showdown dirt races.
August: Aug. 1, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 5, HPT Touring Club (road course); Aug. 8, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 9, HPT Bike Day (road course); Aug. 13-14, NHRA Division V Divisional drags; Aug. 15-16, NHRA Division V Regional drags; Aug. 22, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 28, Street Legal drags; Aug. 30, Saturday Showdown dirt races.
September — Sept. 2, HPT Touring Club (road course); Sept. 4, Street Legal drags; Sept. 5, ET Bracket Series drag races; Sept. 5, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Sept. 12, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Sept. 12-13, HPT Bike Days (road course); Sept. 18-20, NHRA ET Finals; Sept. 26, Saturday Showdown dirt races.
October — Oct. 2 Street Legal drags; Oct. 3-4, ET Bracket Series drag races; Oct. 7, HPT Touring Club (road course); Oct. 11, HPT Bike Day (road course).