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Commissioners hold special meeting to review raceway proposals

The Grays Harbor County commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday to review the request for proposals for the Grays Harbor Raceway.

Commission chairman Frank Gordon, commissioner Wes Cormier and commissioner Herb Welch, who were all three in attendance at the meeting, along with Fairgrounds and Event Center Director Mike Bruner, asked questions of representatives from both of the companies that made bids for the position of raceway promoter.

Proposals were received from Funtime Promotions Inc. of Burlington, which was represented by owner Steve Beitler, and Circle Motion Promotions of Snohomish, which was represented by Bert Johnson, for a contract to lease and operate Grays Harbor Raceway.

The county commissioners canceled the leasing contract with Great Northwest Promotions LLC in October, citing numerous unpaid bills owed the county.

A solicitation to those interested in leasing the facility was approved by the commissioners on Dec. 9 with a deadline to submit a bid of Monday, when the bids were unsealed.

Funtime Promotions has been the raceway promoter at Skagit Speedway in Skagit County for the past 13 years. Johnson was the raceway promoter at Port Angeles Speedway for five years before the raceway closed in 2011 and has worked at Skagit Speedway for the past two years during the racing season.

Beitler was the first to answer the questions from the commissioners, which ranged from if he would bring his own scoreboard system to if season tickets would be offered. During his responses to the commissioners, Beitler cited his experience in racing as what separates him as a candidate.

“My experience ranges clear back to when I was 8 years old I went to work at Skagit Speedway selling programs and doing cleanup,” Beitler said. “I built my first race car as a class project in high school. I’ve been involved in the motor sports industry since 1975 and I’ve raced with the national series and World of Outlaws for seven years. I spent three years in the Midwest racing those tracks. I was on the USA team that raced in Australia for two years and I’ve owned my own business since 1986.”

Johnson answered many of the same questions as Beitler and said that he hopes to increase the number of events at the raceway.

“I know we can bring in some quality shows to the program here,” Johnson said in an interview after the meeting. “It would be nice to bring in some demo derbies out here from time to time. The infield is not utilized and maybe we could look at a figure-8 event out there. There are quite a few entities that we can bring in that will be different. We want to keep our home groups growing and expanding so they are a priority, but we need to bring them all in.”

Johnson said his connection to racing began when he was 5 years old, going to races at Sky Valley Speedway through his days as a driver and promoter.

During a time for public comment both of the individuals who spoke said they supported Beitler as the choice for promoter.

“I know both these gentleman very well,” Whitney’s owner Stormy Glick said. “I got to recommend Steve. He is very knowledgeable. He knows what he is doing and he is what we need. But I need you guys to know how important this is to make a decision today. We need it now. We are way past due on our scheduling.”

Both Johnson and Beitler echoed Glick’s worry about the schedule for the coming season.

“It is going to be difficult because a lot of the associations have already booked, but we will do our best,” Johnson said.

Beitler said he has held off scheduling many of his events at the Skagit Speedway in hopes to be able to not have conflicts between the schedules of the two speedways and to be able to create series-type events with races at both Grays Harbor Raceway and Skagit Speedway.

“I believe I can do a good job for the racers and the race fans,” Beitler said. “Grays Harbor Raceway is a real nice race track. We’re 90 days away from when we are going to try and open and that is going to be the biggest challenge is getting the track open on time. We just have to look at how the scheduling and maintenance comes together.”

The commissioners have scheduled another special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday and are expected to make a decision on the proposals at that time.