August 28, 2012 in City

New management at racetrack

Raceway Investments terminates subcontract, takes over track
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

During a press conference Monday, Jeff Saunders, a race fan, and Sheri Tarr, who had subleased the oval track at Spokane County Raceway Park, have words with Craig Smith, who operates the Spokane County Raceway complex.
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Financial losses have triggered a management shake-up at Spokane County Raceway.

Craig Smith, manager of Raceway Investments, said the oval’s operator fell “significantly behind” on rent payments.

Money problems between the private businesses mounted after tight liquor rules prohibited the sale of beer inside the oval race area this season.

Full Blown Promotions, the mother-son business team of Sheri Tarr and Brycen Tarr, ran the oval and held their last race on Saturday. “We are a family that loves racing,” Sheri Tarr said on Monday. “I put a lot of money into it.”

She estimated that she had put $350,000 into the operation.

Raceway Investments leases the park from the county, and in turn, had subcontracted with Full Blown Productions for operation of the oval. The subcontract was in place prior to Raceway Investments taking over the track this year.

The county is not liable for the financial losses among the two private vendors.

Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke, a racing enthusiast and proponent of Spokane County’s 2008 purchase of the track, held a press conference Monday with Smith to announce the management change. The event turned into a debate between Tarr and racing supporters on the one side, and Smith and Mielke on the other.

“I stuck my neck out to save racing,” Mielke told the race enthusiasts, recounting the county’s controversial 2008 purchase of the track for $4.4 million.

Smith wants to hire a new oval track manager to finish the racing season, which runs through Sept. 22.

Once the management change occurs, beer sales will be allowed at the oval track because its liquor license is held by Raceway Investments. Beer and other alcohol could not be sold by Full Blown Promotions in the oval area under a liquor rule prohibiting alcohol sales by a tenant operating through a subcontract, Mielke and Smith said.

Brycen Tarr predicted last April that limiting alcohol sales would help the track regain a family atmosphere and curtail problems in previous years with intoxicated fans. Beer and other alcohol were still being sold in a roped-off area at the adjacent drag strip.

Racers at Monday’s press conference told Smith that he should not be selling alcohol because of previous convictions for driving while under the influence.

Smith acknowledged having two DUIs, but said the liquor license is held by his son, who owns the LLC. It is legal for him to manage the track under state liquor rules, he said.

Mielke said beer sales were identified as an issue prior to the start of the oval track’s racing season. Mielke called on the racers to set aside grievances and continue supporting the track.

Smith hopes to have a new oval management in place for the 2013 season.

The Tarrs had agreed to rent payments of $2,500 for Friday night events and $3,500 for Saturday events.

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