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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County commissioners approve new lease agreement with raceway operator

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 11, 2018

A class dominated by Mazda Miatas takes to the track at the Spokane County Grand Prix at Spokane Raceway Park on Saturday, July 10, 2010. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A class dominated by Mazda Miatas takes to the track at the Spokane County Grand Prix at Spokane Raceway Park on Saturday, July 10, 2010. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County commissioners have approved changes to a lease agreement with the Spokane County Raceway operator to reduce annual fees in exchange for being able to conduct more law enforcement training days at the facility.

The changes unanimously approved Tuesday by commissioners reduce the number of Super Oval track events from 10 to one per racing season and drop annual operating from $32,500 to $10,000.

The changes in the lease agreement with racetrack operator Craig Smith allow the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office access to the raceway’s pit area and 2.3-mile road course for training Monday through Wednesday from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Under the new agreement, the county also gains access to the track for 20 additional days per year, including Thursdays and Fridays. The county previously had access to the track for 60 days per year but was restricted to use during the offseason.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the raceway track is used for emergency vehicle-operation training.

“The road course is especially good for practicing higher-speed emergency vehicle operation training and traffic stops,” he said.

The county is required to obtain a $3 million liability insurance policy for personal injury and property damage, which will be through its membership in the Washington Counties Risk Pool. The county also could collect fees from licenses it issues to use the facility, according to the lease agreement.

Smith said a reduction in Super Oval track events isn’t likely to affect overall raceway operations during next year’s racing season.

“It’s not that we don’t want oval track racing, but the grandstand area is an issue,” he said, adding its condition is deteriorating.

Former raceway promoter Rick Nelson, who typically rented the Super Oval for 26 consecutive weekends a year, informed Smith earlier this year he was canceling more than a dozen weekend events for the 2018 racing season on the half-mile track.

Smith said he’s been spending more than $120,000 a year to keep the raceway open and the reduction in operating fees allows him to continue paying for basic operating expenses.

“If I don’t fund it, who knows what would happen to it,” Smith said. “I don’t see too many people stepping up to run the racetrack.”

Smith told The Spokesman-Review in 2014 he was struggling to make a profit from the raceway because of high racing fees and low fan attendance.

Spokane County purchased the facility in 2008 for $4.1 million after the track fell into receivership because of financial and legal issues stemming from Orville Moe, the raceway’s former operator who raised money to build the raceway in the 1970s.

Smith called the revised lease agreement with the county “a win-win for everybody.”

“The county needs more room for training and it opens the door for them to be able to do that,” he said.

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