MANSFIELD, OH – It took Kevin Ruic five years, but the longtime motor sports showman will finally promote events at Mansfield Motorsports Park.
Racing will return to the half-mile oval in 2015.
The Avon Lake businessman said he reached a deal in principal with MMP owner Grant Milliron to bring up to six special events to track. Attempts to reach Milliron were unsuccessful.
The nature of those events is still to be determined, but Ruic said a three-day tractor pull, a monster truck and thrill show, a supermodified and sprint car event, a July 4 fireworks show and a rodeo could be possible for 2015. Bringing in major events such as NASCAR or ARCA are not in the plans.
“I’ve got to turn this place into absolutely the most spectacular race track in the country. I’ll be able to do it or at least write the stories to make it sound like I do,” Ruic joked.
Now 71 and with 50 years of promotions experience in motor sports, Ruic worked as a consultant off-and-on with former MMP owner Mike Dzuilla in the mid- to late-2000s. Under his FASCAR Motorsports Promotions banner, Ruic brought a monster truck and stunt show to the facility over Labor Day weekend in 2009 that produced a standing-room-only crowd.
“I left there with a full house. It was my last event there with 11,200 people sitting in the grandstands having a ball,” he said. “I plan on opening up with a full house
Ruic and Dzurilla then reached an agreement to have Ruic promote seven special motor sports events in the summer of 2010, but just weeks before the season was to start, there was a falling out and those events were canceled. Only the ARCA Racing Series held an event in Mansfield that summer which proved to be the last one held at the track.
A protracted legal battle soon began over back taxes owed, and in January of 2013 the track finally went up for sale in a sheriff’s auction. Milliron won the bidding war with $800,000, which covered the more than $300,000 owed in taxes.
Milliron, now near 80, owns a successful scrap and recycling business in Richland County, but has no experience with racing or event promotion. The facility has sat dormant since his purchase.
“I came out of retirement to come do this,” Ruic said, “and I’ve been retired a month when I got the phone call.”
On the day of the sheriff’s sale, Ruic and Milliron talked for more than an hour. Ruic said the two have continued the conversation over the phone concerning the track’s potential and possibilities.
Ruic is leasing the facility to host his shows and better market the track to sell for Milliron.
“I told him you can’t sell it closed. It’s worthless closed,” Ruic said, adding, “I can turn that into one helluva facility.”
Ruic said despite the track not being used since the summer of 2010 it is in good condition, adding that the rest rooms were winterized, the lights work and the suites only need dusted. He said it would only take a week to prepare the grounds, the parking lot and the track itself for an event.
Among his plans is to bring energy to facility by contracting with concessionaires to fill the concourse like Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk does. He also wants to turn the concession building behind the grandstands into a bar or lounge and plans to upgrade the sound system. Finally, he’d love to add a merry-go-round to give the kids something to do on the concourse.
Dates and events for next summer will be determined later, but the goal is to have it open on Memorial Day weekend.
Story by Rob McCurdy Mansfield News Journal – Photo: Dave Polcyn/News Journal