Spokane County will cut ties with the operator of the Spokane County Raceway as limitations imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic hamper racing’s sustainability.
This week, the county Board of Commissioners is expected to terminate its agreement with Raceway Investments, the county announced on Tuesday.
Raceway Investments is operated by CEO Craig Smith, who asked county officials for an early exit. The agreement was originally set to expire after the 2021 racing season.
“After much discussion with my team members I have come to the reality that it is not going to be feasible to do any events at the race track for 2021,” Smith wrote to Spokane County Parks Director Doug Chase.
Smith declined to comment when reached by The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday.
Only 200 people would be allowed at racing events under current guidelines. The grandstands at Spokane County Raceway was built to accommodate more than 8,000 spectators. The park spans more than 300 acres and includes a racing oval, road course, and drag strip that typically host races from the spring through the fall.
Spokane County purchased the track, located in Airway Heights, through a controversial decision commissioners made in 2008.
The original 10-year agreement with Raceway Investments was set to expire in early 2020. Commissioners voted to extend the agreement in early 2020 to cover the year’s racing season, then approved another one-year extension last October.
Raceway Investments paid a flat annual fee of $10,000 to the county for the right to operate the track in 2020, and was scheduled to pay the same rate in 2021. Previous to the February 2020 amendment, the operator paid the county $65,000 per year and 10% of annual revenues above $1.5 million.
The cancellation of the 2021 season should allow county officials to reconsider the site’s future, which was already in question before the pandemic hit.
In explaining the one-year extension last October, Chase wrote that it would allow operations to continue while “the county continues to contemplate long-term options for this facility.”
“The commissioners are taking time to consider all options for the facility. No decisions have been made,” county spokesman Jared Webley wrote in an email to The Spokesman-Review.