(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a new, weekly feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from 51 columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Kevin Ramsell, the author of this editorial, is the Director of Business/Midwest Editor for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
Being a lifelong Wisconsin resident and a Green Bay Packer fan, this writer recalls the poor start to the 2014 Packers season. Following that poor start and the expected complaints from fans of the team, star quarterback Aaron Rodgers made an appearance on his weekly radio show and told everyone to simply “relax.”
After Rodgers made that statement, the Packers went on a winning streak to become one of the hottest teams in the NFL and nearly punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. They relaxed too much at the end of the NFC championship game, but I digress. Let’s talk about short track racing.
Last week, the Pasadena Star-News published an article titled, “Irwindale Speedway Likely to Demolish for Outlet Mall.” With a big, bold title like this, it didn’t take long for the news to spread like the flu bug all over social media. Without doing any sort of additional research into the subject, people were already writing the obituary to the track and saying their goodbyes.
Sadly, while the article explained in detail the plans to build an outlet mall in the same space where the current half-mile track is currently located northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the story failed to provide a comment from the track reassuring that they are full steam ahead for a full 2015 season.
The story put the track in a position to where Jim Cohan, President/CEO of the Irwindale Event Center, was forced to place a message on the track’s Facebook page.
Cohan didn’t waste time to remind everyone that they have the lease for the 2015 season.
“As many already know, the property was purchased in 2013 from the previous owner, Nu-Way Industries. The new owners, Lindom Co., and their principals reached out to us shortly thereafter and there has been a good line of communication since,” Cohan said in his statement. “They made it clear to us at the beginning of the 2014 season that not only would we be permitted a lease to run in 2014, but also for the 2015 season which we will kick off next week.”
Cohan also addressed the question as to whether or not this is the final season for Irwindale Speedway.
“My personal commitment to our fans, racers, and sponsors, is to always communicate with you and have absolute transparency. And in the spirit of that commitment, I can tell you that we have not been told that 2015 is our final season. While we cannot control what makes it into print or what rumors may be spun, we can promise you that if the time comes where we must announce a final season of this legendary facility…you’ll hear it from us.”
If you read the entire Pasadena Star-News article, it clearly doesn’t give an end date to the track either. In fact, it has a comment from Community Development Director Gustavo Romo who told the paper that, “the existing lease will continue until the owner secures at least 65 percent of outlet tenants.”
It also said that construction may begin as early as January 2016, but a date hasn’t been finalized. It then further said that it wasn’t clear if the lease would be renewed for 2016.
The plan to approve the development agreement was passed a week ago Wednesday. The first phase could take place in 2016, but that is all contingent on when they secure 65-percent of outlet tenants.
So, we are playing the waiting game again, and the saga of Irwindale Speedway continues. But, while the track may be on their final legs, no one and I repeat no one has said that is for sure yet.
But some on social media have already decided that the track is done after this year. One person stated that they heard on the radio that it will be torn down as soon as January 2016. But neither the development group nor the track can say that, yet they are principles involved and one would think would have more knowledge of if and when that would be.
Some tend to want to jump the gun and be the first to post something on social media. We all know that bad news gathers more attention than happy news and bad news spreads faster. We also know that you get your ego stroked when everyone is retweeting or sharing what you posted on your social media page.
The staff at Irwindale Speedway is committed to providing a full racing season and a full season is planned for 2015. News like this, while it is real and a good possibility that we could lose another short track in the United States, doesn’t help the current situation.
The current situation is that the track still has racing there and we all need to go and support it. News with presumption that it is done by a certain date does turn people away and they will start looking for other forms of entertainment in their area. Right now, the track needs the support more than ever.
Yes, the news isn’t good about the track. But track officials are bound and determined to go as long as they can and will do everything they mentally and physically can while they have the opportunity. Let’s adopt that same thinking with Irwindale Speedway and other tracks in similar situations.
For now, we all just need to relax and enjoy the 2015 season that Jim Cohan and his staff have planned for the racing fans at their oval and drag strip. When they say it’s time to say goodbye, let’s do it with respect and provide great personal memories.
Enjoy it as long as we can.
– Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Director of Business/Midwest Editor. Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Photo Credit: Irwindale Speedway