Selling Miller Motorsports Park and the future for track racing in Utah

| March 10, 2016 | 2 Comments

miller

When asking around about the future of Miller Motorsports Park I’ve heard everything from fact based information to over-the-top conspiracy theories.  Having a curious mindset, and tendency to not believe what the majority of media outlets here in Utah spew, I decided to do a little digging.  So to start off here’s a little back story –

On May 8th, 2015 the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies declined to renew its lease of the land in Tooele County, Utah where the Miller Motorsports Park http://www.millermotorsportspark.com/ resides. Although the Park was owned by the Miller Group, the land it is on was leased from Tooele County.  Wanting to continue the operation of the facility, and the influx of vital tax revenue it produced, the County opened up ‘Requests for Proposals’ to private investors.  On August 18th of 2015, it was announced that they would be awarding ownership to MiTime Utah Investment, LLC.  But on September 8th the losing proposer, Center Point Management, LLC filed a ‘Motion For Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction’ ( Case No. 150301347 if you want to check it out ) to block the sale citing they would –

  1. …. suffer irreparable harm…
  2. …. that the threatened injury to Center Point outweighed the harm to the County and MiTime if relief is granted ( meaning if sale went through )
  3. …. granting the relief requested is not adverse to the public interest ( I call bullshit, stay with me here )
  4. …. they’d win ( paraphrasing that one, but surprisingly it turned out in their favor )

So what was it that made the judge rule in their favor? Let’s look at some numbers:

MiTime’s offer: $20 million + up to $2.5 million to run in alternate or secondary water and additional sewer services to the Park if they so choose.

Center Point’s offer: $22.5 million + a $5 million cash or bond trust to run in additional culinary water and sewer services to the Park if they so choose within 2 years of closing on the sale.

Okay, at first glance of the court documentation Center Point’s offer was $2.5 million higher. But digging a little bit deeper you find that there was some ‘lawyer speak’ going on here. As it turns out Center Point’s additional $5 million wasn’t money in the bank for the county. On the contrary, the ‘cash or bond trust’ that Center Point was to put up was to only cover the ACTUAL cost of additional water and sewage, which wouldn’t have exceeded $2.5 million.

Still, even taking this into consideration Center Point’s offer was higher.  More money is more money, right?  So now we turn to the racing community and this is where you begin seeing a whole different side to things.  I stopped by Trackstar Powersports http://www.trackstar1.com/ to speak to Kelly Rees and get his take on things.  With a business dedicated to racing, an active member of the Utah Sport Bike Association http://utahsba.com/ , and having a son that is a rising star on the Superbike racing circuit http://gaugerees.com/ , I figured he’d be in the know on a thing or two –

Utah Café Racer – So what was the proposal from MiTime?

Kelly Rees – MiTime came in with 20 million dollars, plus 2.5 million if they wanted an alternate secondary source of sewer and water on the property. They also proposed a lot of improvements to the track that were not based on the purchase price.

What improvements were they looking to make?

Well, they had a really cool plan; buy the track for 20 million, then over the course of 5 years there was going to be an oval track built on the west end of the track, an NHRA drag strip, a hotel along with dormitories, a race car manufacturing facility, and build an accredited school offering degrees and training in motorsports management. On top of that, their first priority was to get the main race track back up to where it could be certified FIM FIA so that we could get the major events back. That alone is a huge undertaking, there is a lot of money needed to get it back up to spec. They were going to level the motocross track, which has been an eyesore and a major problem, and build a rally cross track in its place. There were additional maintenance items like awnings over the bleachers which have gone into disrepair that was at the top of their list. The first thing was to get the track back up to the world class standard it was, and then go from there.
So, 20 million to purchase, plus millions on top of that for improvements, and the biggest hit they took on this was that the improvements had to be promises because they couldn’t contract these into the purchase price because it was going into their facility once purchased.

And what was Cartwright’s ( Center Point ) proposal?

Cartwright’s proposal was 22.5 million.

I keep hearing that it was 28 million

This 28 million is on no official paperwork when these bids came in.

The problem is, Cartwright’s whole proposal is based around housing and mixed retail. It is a well-known fact that housing and race tracks don’t go well together. And all across the country, when housing encroaches on a racetrack, the racetrack starts getting restrictions placed upon it for noise, operating time, etc. and eventually within 3-5 years the tracks are swallowed up by housing and they no longer exist. I believe that his ultimate plan is to build luxury homes around the racetrack, then lock the gates and make it a private facility, a country club type atmosphere where only the rich and famous can come and play, which does no good for anybody. The county would get the purchase price, whatever that really is, and they will get property taxes off the homes, there will be temporary jobs created for building of the homes, and then the financial stream to the county will pretty much come to a halt.

With the racetrack being open to the public, there are thousands and thousands of people using it every summer that spend lots of money on fuel, food, retail, and lodging which will be a continuous stream of money for the county through sales tax.

So I’ve heard there have been people opposed to the sale to MiTime because it is owned by a Chinese businessman.

What people who are opposed to the purchase because this is a Chinese company needs to understand is every county has a budget, and if they don’t meet that budget, somebody’s taxes need to go up. You take away the sales tax revenue from the public using that track, and the burden will then be placed on the home owners to make up for it.

Right, and then when that doesn’t make up for it, services will then be cut, etc. etc.

Yes, someone else is going to have to make up for it. And 2.5 million dollars in an increased purchase price isn’t going to cover anything for very long. You’re looking at a year, maybe.

So, you’re looking at lost revenue for businesses in town that have sprung up to accommodate us racers. Turning that track into a rich man’s country club or housing is not a good proposition long term.

Is MiTime a 100% Chinese owned company?

MiTime is a conglomerate, its top most company being the Geely Group of Companies which also owns Volvo, is owned by a Chinese business man.

So, this isn’t a company owned by the Chinese government, just a Chinese businesses man?

Correct, and this company owns many, many companies around the world, MiTime just being one of them. What people associate this with is stories about the Chinese coming in to buy up our resources, land, etc. and so think they are coming in to buy Miller, to box it all up, and send back to China. I get that apprehension, I totally understand that. What they don’t understand is that the Chinese are giving us money for a racetrack that they can’t take home. They are giving us money, the facility stays here, and we continue to use it and generate money from it. That being said, I can’t understand where all the negative is coming from. It’s not like they can put a flag in the middle of it and call it ‘sovereign territory of China’, they’re not gonna build a wall, it’s still Tooele.

And it’s not like they’re going try to dig a tunnel out to the military base, right?

Oh, you heard that one too? Yeah, no tunnel to Dugway planned either. I’ve also heard people say they’re planning on building a spy base out there to spy on the military. You know, anybody who’s been out there knows the internet connection is so shitty you can’t even bring up a picture off Facebook, so I don’t know how they’re gonna build a spy ring out there.

And beyond that, as far as the jobs thing goes, MiTime is in the process of building race tracks right now in China, several of them. The main reason they want Miller is because it is a complete, working facility, it has a staff that is trained and knows how to run a racetrack. As far as bringing in the Chinese, yes, they are bringing Chinese workers over here to train, with the current staff, so that they can send them back to China to run their facility. Then, they’ll send more people over to train with our guys, then send them back to run another facility. It’s perfect, during that time they’re over here, they’ll be in Tooele County, they’ll have jobs, they’ll be spending money here, and then they go back home to work. I just don’t see where any of this can be a loss.

What is it that you feel isn’t being talked about?

So one of the biggest things that has come up between the business owners, and the clubs that operate at the track, is that Alan Wilson, who is the face of MiTime here in America and is running the business, who also designed the track and operated the track for years for Larry H. Miller, knows how to run a track. MiTime and Alan have been very, very vocal, have communicated with the clubs, the business owners, and the racers what they are wanting for the future and what that holds for us and what we all need to do to make that happen.

Cartwright will not answer a tweet, a phone call, a message on Facebook, an email message, will not speak with anyone in person, and wants no communication with anybody that is involved with that racetrack. So, we have no idea what he is doing, and it’s been said time and time again that the reason we are against Cartwright is because we have no idea what you’re doing. Tell us your plan, tell us where we fit in, and let us see if we can get behind it. But, the general consensus is, if he doesn’t want to talk to us about his plans, then we’re not apart of it, so what are we to think other than the worst? The guy’s a dick.

laughing

You know, it’s the equivalent of my landlord coming over here and telling me he’s selling the building, and I try and go and talk to the new landlord about the lease and he won’t say anything to me until he owns the building.  What am I supposed to do, how the hell am I supposed to know what my future is? What do I do, do I bail?  You just can’t come in and buy a facility that thousands of people use, and hundreds of people rely on for their income, and not tell them what’s coming, and expect them to back your play over two and a half million dollars.  Two and a half million dollars is nothing, you could piss that away on the racetrack in a matter of hours just deciding it needed to be repaved. In the course of revenue it’s nothing, so I don’t know.

Our hope is that the county could bring MiTime in as an operator, because it’s still the county’s track, they could bring them in until they can figure out a way to sell it legally.  I don’t know if the county did the right or wrong thing, I’m not a lawyer, but as far as doing the right thing for the county, and the people that use the facility, they were doing what they needed to do.  It wasn’t a bid, it wasn’t a disposable property, it was a proposal of operation, and they went with the proposal that made the most sense for the track, the county, and the community.  If they did it correctly, I don’t know, but we are where we are with it now.

So what does the future hold now for the track? Fortunately all is not lost for the 2016 racing season. As of this writing, the president of the Utah Sport Bike Association http://utahsba.com , Scott Rybarik , was able to sum up the current situation for me:

What the County has at the moment with MiTime isn’t a lease, but rather an Operations Contract.  The County has essentially hired MiTime to operate the facility on the County’s behalf for 2016.  There  is an escape clause in the operations agreement stating that it can be terminated prior to expiration if a sale of the facility is successfully completed in that time period.  At this point MiTime has already accomplished booking over 70% of the available track time at the facility for 2016.  We’re all pretty excited that the show’s going on.

For now all we can do is wait and see what unfolds.  The facility’s name has changed to Utah Motorsports Campus, their new website is www.utahmotorsportscampus.com , and aside from getting updated information from here, MiTime is staying cordial with the community but now keeping things close to the chest for the time being while the County reevaluates.

×

2 Comments on "Selling Miller Motorsports Park and the future for track racing in Utah"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Another Day says:

    Accurate to my understanding. Mitime will invest double their offer within a few years. FIM (re)licensing alone will be $6M to $8M. Cartwright’s proposal shows no investment in the track. Mitime is developing racing in China and will use UMC to help get their five tracks up and running – all to be FIA and FIM licensed. Cartwight is developing 2 beds and a bath. I would put Tooele County commissioners on trial for lunacy if they were to select Cartwright’s offer over the Mitime offer. The $28.1M is the assessed value that Cartwright indicated he is willing to pay. I know Mitime is financial sound. I wonder who is funding Cartwright. Cartwright = disaster. Mitime = our best chance of getting WSBK and national events back – just as Larry envisioned. Sure miss Larry. The passion died with him.

Post a Comment