The state of Washington continues to be one of the states most impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and that impact is now being felt by short track racing facilities in the state.
On Wednesday, Evergreen Speedway in Monroe announced that the track’s season opener on March 28 would be canceled due to a ban placed on large gatherings with over 250 people through the month of March in the counties of King, Pierce and Snohomish.
Doug Hobbs, the Promoter of Evergreen Speedway, spoke to Speed51 Friday evening to deliver the latest news and explain the impact coronavirus will have on his race track.
Prior to Hobbs’ appearance on the show, it was announced that the state of Washington would be enacting a statewide ban of large gatherings of 250 people or more. Previously, the ban was limited to just three counties.
Additionally, it was announced that schools in the state will now be closed through April 24.
“Our facility of course is under the same 250-person ban through the end of March,” Hobbs stated. “That had been originally just the three populous counties – King, Pierce and Snohomish – here in the state of Washington. Our Governor, as soon as President Trump was finished with his speech, had a press conference and now in the state of Washington all schools are closed through April 24. The travel and the group ban is in effect statewide now, not just the three counties.”
What does this mean for race tracks operating in the state of Washington? It means that none of them will be able to open with fans in attendance during the month of March. Hobbs also believes the ban could be extended into the month of April in order to match the reopening of the school system.
“Race track wise, literally any track that was going to do something in the state in the end of March would not be able to do anything with the over 250-person ban,” Hobbs said. “We expect the ban to be extended into at least into the end of April to match when the schools can open up again, but that has not came out yet. There’s another meeting that’s going to happen tomorrow.”
In addition to events at Evergreen Speedway, other big events in the state including the Apple Cup at Yakima Speedway on April 4-5 could be impacted if the ban is extended into April.
For race track owners and employees who rely on racing as a way to make a living, a pandemic such as the coronavirus creates difficult times.
“It’s hard. Obviously, it’s a hardship if you have no income coming in,” Hobbs said. “It makes it really hard to do all the things you normally do. We fully expected it to be open the 28th of March, so anything you’ve done up to that point – advertising with radio and TV, your pocket schedules, your flyers, your posters, all the other things you line up for a big opening night. Now, all of that is put on hold and we’re not really sure how many weeks down the road that may be.”
Hobbs is also concerned about the part-time employees who will not be able to bring in supplemental income due to the lack of events at the facility.
“The other thing besides just our business is how many people we have at the track that rely on us,” he said. “We have over 200 part-time employees during the season that work Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays because we do so many events. That directly affects them too because they have no income, supplemental income.
“You want to do the right thing to keep everybody safe and contained, but it will affect a lot of things in our area. It already has, a lot of our local businesses are seeing the effect of nobody going to their restaurants, movie theaters and things. All of the entertainment world around the state of Washington are going to be effected for quite a few weeks.”
From Tuesday to Friday the amount of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the state of Washington increased from 162 to 568. The number of deaths also increased from 21 to 27 during that same period. Additionally, the virus has spread from nine to 15 counties.
“It’s very hard,” Hobbs said. “I think the reality is starting to set in now with the rest of the state, whereas it was just three counties a week or so ago. Now, it’s statewide. Every track now in the racing world is going to be impacted.”
Speed51 will continue to update race fans on the coronavirus, as it relates to short track racing. The latest news and updates on scheduled events can be found by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51