Operating a racetrack in Airway Heights has been anything but easy for retired American Motorcyclist Association champion racer Joe Kopp.
Kopp, a 43-year-old Rockford resident, put his racing career in park several years ago. But he found himself at the starting line of a new endeavor in the world of flat-track motorcycle racing in April when he took over operations at the dirt track in the Spokane County ORV Park.
The dirt track, once called the Diamond A Motorplex and now known as the Spokane Speedway, has already hosted three race nights with riders ranging from children to middle-age men in multiple classes and skill levels. The turnout has been fairly robust, Kopp said.
“We’ve been getting about 300 to 350 people through the gate,” he said. “That’s counting riders and spectators.”
Each race typically features anywhere from two to 15 riders, Kopp said.
The track saw its largest crowd Wednesday when roughly 450 people, some from as far away as Seattle and Tacoma, showed up to either watch or participate in the evening races. The goal is to eventually attract about 650 people for each race night, but Kopp said it’s going to take some hard work to get there.
“Tracks keep changing hands and ownership all the time because no one’s making money off of them,” he said. “We need to change that.”
Kopp spends nearly 50 hours on site each race week preparing for the events, riding in the races and then cleaning up afterward. About a dozen friends and family members offer unpaid assistance, but that’s about it as far as help goes for Kopp’s track.
The plan is to eventually hire an operations staff, but money is tight and Kopp has had his hands full. Someone broke into the restrooms on site in April and stole the copper wiring and plumbing. Kopp spent about $5,000 to replace the missing parts and clean up the mess.
“I finally got all the toilets going yesterday,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been quite the ordeal. If that wouldn’t have happened, I’d be sitting a lot better with a lot more stuff done.”
At some point, Kopp wants to expand the bleacher seating area and install a higher-quality PA system for his announcer, a DJ from a local radio station. He’s also working on getting more food and drink vendors at each race.
So far, Bartlett’s Bakers Dozen Mini Doughnuts and Pete Abbey, who owns Fredneck’s Saloon and Beanery in Rockford, have served food next to the track at each event. Abbey and Kopp also hope to set up a beer garden next to the parking lot, Abbey said.
Former operator Mark Anderson built the quarter-mile oval track in 2011, but Kopp installed a jump in the middle when he took over this spring. Kopp wants to make the jump larger at some point.
But to really ensure a stable future for the track, Kopp would like to get more support from the county.
“Yeah, it’s county property, but you never see or hear from them out here,” he said. “It’s not like we’re asking for a million bucks, but we can bring visitors to this area, too.”
The next Spokane Speedway races start at 7 p.m. on July 18. Gates open at 4 p.m., and spectator entry fees are $5 per person or $20 for a vehicle carrying five people.