Local news

Help wanted at raceway

County’s new requirements include experience, more financial disclosure

OLYMPIA – Spokane County is looking for a new racetrack operator who must have something the last operator did not: experience running a track.

A request for qualifications to bid on the contract for the Spokane Raceway Park was released Wednesday, and the lease could be awarded by mid-February, county Parks Director Doug Chase said. Any bidder must provide significantly more information on finances than the county requested last year, and expect increased oversight of track operations by the county.

Chase said he thinks “it’s safe to say” the county learned from problems it had with Bucky Austin, who received the operator’s lease for the track early this year. Austin ordered renovations that were twice what the county expected for 2009, failed to obtain the required bonds, then failed to pay debts to local contractors of more than $1 million for renovations performed at the West Plains facility. Commissioners canceled his lease this fall.

Earlier this week, six contractors sued the county to recover the costs of renovations they said they made and Austin didn’t pay for. County officials said they are still auditing documents and work before paying any bills.

The county already hired people on a temporary basis to book some events into the facility’s three courses next year, Chase said. They have tentatively scheduled 15 auto events and 28 motorcycle events at the road course, 69 events at the drag track and 18 events at the oval track, which the new contract holder will finalize.

The tentative schedule for the oval track includes a race in NASCAR’s Camping World West series in mid-September, Chase said.

The request for bidding qualifications mentions the schedule, as well as safety improvements to the oval track that county commissioners want made.

Applicants can ask questions of county officials at a meeting on Jan. 6 and submit bids by Jan. 20. They would be interviewed the week of Feb. 1, and the contract could be awarded by commissioners the week of Feb. 15.

Among the people booking events for the 2010 season was Joe Doellefeld, co-owner of Stateline Speedway, who bid on the original operator’s contract and is expected to bid on the new contract, Chase said.

“I’d expect that he’d be qualified. But there are many others out there that would be qualified, too,” Chase said.

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