Since the release of the Netflix original series Marking a Murderer, Manitowoc County in Wisconsin has received a lot of attention. While the rest of the country debates the innocence or guilt of Steven Avery, race fans and drivers who regularly attend Manitowoc Speedway have something else on their mind. Just over a month ago, local TV station WBAY broke the story that the grounds the racetrack sit on will most likely be sold to supermarket chain Meijer.
“We weren’t necessarily informed,” President of Eastern Wisconsin Stock Cars Todd Humphrey told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We heard rumors and then we got an email response from the Department of Public Works advisor about a half hour after we read it on WBAY.”
The potential sale came as a surprise to Humphrey and the rest of the racing community.
“Over the past seven years the county executive has said the expo land is not for sale,” said Humphrey. “Then they get an offer and all of the sudden guess what, it’s for sale. I guess 4.6 million speaks pretty loudly.”
According to Humphrey, talks began with Meijer in the beginning of June and in December Meijer put in an intent to purchase and the county has been in discussion ever since. Currently, the plan has gone through the Expo Board, which is an advisory to the County Board and Department of Public Works. The Department of Public Works and Finance Committee will meet together next Thursday before a final vote takes place at a full County Board meeting on January 26th.
“I’m pretty confident at this point that we are at about 1/3 of the board that is voting no,” said Humphrey,” But I don’t know if that number is going to sway enough for us to race at Manitowoc beyond the 2016 season.”
There is a call to the community to attend the County Board meeting on January 26 and make a final push to persuade the board to reject the Meijer purchase. While the closing of the racetrack is of high concern, there are other concerns as well.
“Ideally the county board votes this down or at least puts together a plan,” said Humphrey. “A lot of the concern is what is going to happen with the rest of the expo grounds for the fair and things like that. It is right in the edge of Manitowoc. A lot of people are saying they should just get a plan together, move the entire expo ground west, so they don’t have this urban sprawl taking over the expo grounds.”
Whatever is decided on January 26, the 2016 season will take place at Manitowoc Speedway as the sale will not be final until September of this year. The Eastern Wisconsin Stock Car Group has called Manitowoc Speedway home for the past 11 years, but now are beginning to make plans for the future, if a move is necessary.
“Our group is looking at exploring different opportunities that are out there as far as other tracks and things like that,” said Humphrey. “There is one we are looking at that hasn’t been raced on a weekly basis in a number of years. It’s gonna need a lot of work, but if we know this far enough ahead of time, there’s time to work on it.”
The Eastern Wisconsin Stock Car Group races Late Models, Sprints, Grand Nationals and Sport Mods, and Humphry is confident if the Group must find another venue to race that drivers will follow.
“I think for the most part with the Late Models and Sprint Cars and stuff most of those drivers are coming up from the south and if we were to move we’re not planning on moving further north,” said Humphrey. “We are hoping a track to the west is still available. We still have talks with them scheduled and see what happens with that track.”
Until then Humphrey and the Manitowoc racing community urge supporters to attend the meeting on January 26 before the final vote is held.
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: Manitowoc Speedway Facebook