TOOELE COUNTY -- Saturday was the season opener at Tooele County’s Miller Motorsports Park, and some are wondering if it could be the last ever after the recent announcement from the Miller Group that they will not be renewing their lease with the county for the park.
There was a lot of talk at the track Saturday about what would happen if the park were to close. The county has voiced no desire to begin running the park once Larry H. Miller Group ends their lease. A county commissioner said the ideal situation would be for someone else will step forward to buy or operate the park.
But riders worry what will happen if that hope isn’t realized by next season.
“It’s a huge ripple effect that would create real problems here if that were to happen,” said Michael Hawkins, president of the Utah Sports Bike Association.
Come this time next year, the multi-million dollar, world-class facility could look very different--and it’s uncertain whether that’s a good or bad thing.
“Honestly, I was sick to my stomach,” said Kelly Reese, who owns the Trackstar bike shop.
Driver Brent Holden said he hopes the county finds someone to take over operations.
He said: "I think one way or the other, I can't imagine the track being closed for more than a year before, in some way [it opens again.] ...There's a lot of revenue that comes out here. It just depends on, they probably have to come up with a different business model.”
Holden said he flies to Utah from California several times a year to race at the track. In fact, most of the participants who frequent the track and its events come from outside of Tooele County.
"We fly into the local airport, everyone is staying at hotels, we always go to nice dinners, so I think there is a lot of revenue that comes to Salt Lake City and Tooele both from the motor sports park,” Holden said.
The park employs 91 full-time employees in addition to the multiple businesses that rely on the racing community established by the park.
“There are micro-economies built around this, you have the manufacturer, then you have the vendor, then you have the shop like mine who also runs a race team--so we’re dealing with thousands of dollars in sponsorship on top of our everyday business,” Reese said.
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne said the future of the park is bright, and he said they’re working to bring peace of mind to the people that love and rely on it.
“We’ve been approached by a number of entities that are interested in the assets,” he said. “We will entertain over the next couple of weeks discussions with them to see whose vision aligns most closely with our own.”
Miller will continue running the park through this season, which ends October 31. Milne said the plan is to have at least narrowed down the options to a few finalists by that time.