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.