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County picks raceway operators

Wed., Feb. 24, 2010

Experienced managers from Arizona, Alberta chosen

A pair of veteran speedway operators got the green flag Tuesday to take over operation of Spokane County Raceway Park.

County commissioners unanimously accepted the recommendation of a selection committee to begin negotiations with Ronald Hodgson and Charles Allen for a 10-year contract.

The committee weeded out two of four applications earlier this month and chose Hodgson’s and Allen’s offer Monday after interviewing them and representatives of J-Mar Racing Inc., which operates the Woodburn Dragstrip in Woodburn, Ore.

Hodgson operates the Castrol Raceway at Edmonton, Alberta, while Allen runs the Firebird International Raceway at Chandler, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.

Their offer calls for the county to receive 10 percent of gross annual revenue in excess of $1.5 million, plus guaranteed annual payments of $73,346 – at least $733,460 over 10 years.

J-Mar offered guaranteed annual rents totaling $1.18 million over 10 years, plus shared revenue and in-kind contributions estimated to bring the total to more than $3.1 million.

County officials based their choice on perceptions of the applicants’ financial strength and stability as well as their proposed payments.

Aside from a racetrack, Hodgson owns two General Motors dealerships, a Mitsubishi dealership and a metal fabrication firm.

Parks Director Doug Chase, who oversees the raceway, said 11 of 12 county officials and local racing enthusiasts on the selection committee favored the Hodgson-Allen offer.

Chase said one reason was that Allen promised to transfer experienced personnel to Spokane when it’s too hot to race in Arizona. That would include the operator of a “world renown” driving school, he said.

However, committee members called for Hodgson and Allen to align Spokane County Raceway Park with the National Hot Rod Association instead of the International Hot Rod Association.

Commissioner Todd Mielke urged an “open-minded” approach to the affiliation.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners voted 2-1 to negotiate a contract for special aerial photography Assessor Ralph Baker said he needs to offset reductions in his appraisal staff. Commissioner Bonnie Mager objected that the photos aren’t worth the price and might lead to inaccurate appraisals.

The low-level, high-resolution photos would allow appraisers to revalue properties without visiting them. They would cost $560,000 over six years.

Commissioners also increased admission for the Spokane County Interstate Fair. General admission will rise $2, to $10.

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