Steve Beitler’s plans for the Grays Harbor Raceway include more than a coat of paint. And interest in the new promoter’s plans remain high.
A job fair on Saturday drew more than 100 people looking for part-time jobs at the Raceway. More than 100 people attended a “driver’s meeting” at the fairgrounds last week and Beitler drew dozens of businesses to a speech on the Raceway at an Elma Chamber of Commerce event on March 12.
Beitler was also asked to speak at the Elma Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductions on Saturday.
Beitler and his crews have hit the ground running with renovations of the facility from the concessions stand to a new coat of paint on the track fence. Beitler said included in the painting will be a redo of the No. 92 in memory of past Grays Harbor Raceway promoter Fred Brownfield.
“I expected to be on site no later than the last of February to start working on this so all of the work that could have been done the last six weeks hasn’t been done,” Beitler said. “We have to plumb in hot water tanks. We have to put sinks back on the walls. Now, with the weather getting better we should be outside painting the fence and doing the pit area and work on the track doing all of the outdoor stuff. Now, we are stuck doing all of the indoor stuff. We’ll be ready to race, we just have to put in a lot more hours and hire more people to get the job done.”
The first race of the year is currently scheduled for May 10 and Beitler said unless it is raining they will be racing.
On Monday, the Grays Harbor County commissioners approved the formal contract with Beitler’s company, Funtime Promotions. The approval ended a lot of the “would they or wouldn’t they” debate that has been swirling in racing circles since January, when the county picked Beitler to run the Raceway. Many drivers and race fans were scared that a contract wouldn’t be signed in time for the races to start.
Beitler was quick to quiet any rumors saying the contract with the county had been finalized in January, but that the previous promoter, Great Northwest Promotions, had not vacated the facility until recently. And when Great Northwest did leave the facility, they took thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The county is planning to enter into arbitration with the outfit to be properly compensated, said Grays Harbor Public Services Director Kevin Varness.
“We came to 100 percent agreement on the contracts between Funtime Promotions and the County clear back in January,” Beitler said. “The reason I have not signed the contracts is that I’m not going to sign the contracts and take responsibility of the facility when there is still a tenant on the facility.”
However, some of the details on the contract were still being worked out. On Monday, the county commissioners almost pushed the contract approval off another week because the compensation rate between Beitler and the Sheriff’s Office hadn’t been reached. The county provides deputies for security at the Raceway. However, an agreement was reached just minutes before the 2 p.m. commission session was set to begin.
The lease calls for Beitler to pay the county $750 per month for the first year of the Raceway and, then, $2,000 per month thereafter. The contract also calls for the Raceway to provide one dollar to the county for each admission ticket at the World of Outlaws racing events — and if the event is rained out or can’t be scheduled then an additional fee of $2,500 is turned over to the county. The county had originally wanted a $5,000 penalty clause, but County Commissioner Wes Cormier agreed with the lower amount.
“Steve made a good point — he can’t control the rain,” Cormier said.
Payment for the sheriff’s deputies service “shall be calculated at the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s rates for mileages, wages and benefits currently in effect at the time of the applicable event,” the contract states. Two deputies must be on hand from each weekly event from 6:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., or the end of the event. For larger races, four deputies are required.
The contract also requires the Raceway to provide clear access to the horse barn — dealing with a complaint made by users of the barn for the past couple of years from the previous promoter.
The original contract would have made it the sole responsibility of Beitler for the Raceway’s track maintenance. The revised contract states, “The parties acknowledge that the contractor has no knowledge of previous track maintenance; therefore if within the first year of the agreement term the track requires necessary clay material or maintenance, the county will provide assistance to the contractor for such maintenance and materials.”
Commissioner Cormier said that the county really should bear some responsibility to making sure the track is in working condition the first year of operation.
The county originally had required an increased level of insurance for the facility, but that was lowered in negotiations with Beitler, as well. The original contract called for Beitler to have liability insurance specifying $1 million each occurrence, $4 million each occurrence excess liability and $2 million liquor liability per occurrence; as well as a special $5 million limits for all categories during World of Outlaws. The approved contract eliminates the special insurance for World of Outlaws and has liability insurance specifying $1 million each occurrence, $2 million each occurrence excess liability and $2 million liquor liability per occurrence.
“Apparently, we had originally proposed some of the highest liability rates out there and this is going to save Steve money and bring it down to what’s standard on other tracks,” Cormier said.
The lease is good until Oct. 15, 2016 — or can be terminated six months ahead of time. The county has agreed to give Beitler a five-year option to renew the contract if it works out over the next few years.
“This will give the new promoter a chance and we’ll all see if it works out after the lease expires,” Varness said.
How much money the county will need to put into the Raceway is not yet clear.
Beitler was a driver with the World of Outlaws for seven years and he ran his own auto parts store before he purchased Skagit Speedway in Skagit County 13 years ago. He said he wants to run the Grays Harbor Raceway as a business in the same way he has run Skagit Speedway.
“I learned a long time ago that there are only two ways to be profitable in business, have a lot of money coming in or not much going out,” Beitler said. “There are going to be lots of changes in what we do at the raceway. It is our intention that we are going to spend our money locally here. This is where we want to spend our money. This is where our money is coming from and we want to put it back in the community.”
Along with spending money locally, Beitler said he plans to employ local individuals at the facility. Funtime Promotions held a job fair Saturday morning that was attended by 110 individuals, Beitler said, many of which will work at the raceway during the upcoming season.
Almost the same number of people attended a racers meeting at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds on March 12. Beitler went into much greater detail as to how the races will be run and some of the renovations he has planned for the track.
Beitler said Grays Harbor is missing a link for children to continue to compete from the time they graduate from the quarter midget level until they are able to race on the 3/8 mile track.
“We are going to build a new track, a small one, on the inside of the track so we can develop a mini sprint class for the kids,” Beitler said. “We don’t want to lose those kids that start racing at a young age.”
Another major renovation to the track will be a complete overhaul of the pit area. Beitler said Danny Kirkpatrick, who owns Highline Performance in Sedro-Woolley, has donated all of the money and equipment to redo the pit area from building up the roads so they dry faster to adding catch basins, to a reconstruction of the left push off lane, which is not currently paved.
Questions from the racers ranged from the cost of tires and fuel at the track to the raceway’s insurance policy. One individual asked about when payouts would be given to racers, stating that in the past it had been six weeks before they received a check. Beitler said prize money for racers would stay around the same or increase this season with each racer receiving a check on the night of the race or a check being mailed by the following Monday.
At the Chamber event, a business owner pressed Beitler to make sure races finish sooner. The noise and atmosphere from the previous promoter had gone past the midnight hours last year.
Beitler said that the races should be finished by 10 p.m. The contract calls for races to be finished by 11 p.m.
Beitler noted that instead of six classes running on the Raceway, which the previous promoter did, “we will race only four or five so we can get out of there at a reasonable hour.” He said that noise levels on cars will also be enforced.
“We shouldn’t be running after midnight,” he said.
Beitler pledged to shop locally as much as possible and he hoped the business atmosphere would improve if the Raceway excels.
Commissioner Cormier is banking on that concept as well.
“I think if the Raceway succeeds, the county and the entire Elma area will succeed and, even though we’re giving them a break on their rent in the first year, we’ll see a lot better return on our investment,” Cormier said.
Overall, Beitler said he does not hope for major amounts of success this year, but to simply bring a solid racing show to Elma.
“This year we are not going for home runs, I just want singles and doubles,” Beitler said. “I just want to get a good solid show in place. Let’s get through the year and there are things that need to be changed that we don’t even know about yet. We are not going to come out of the box and try and do too many things. We just want to come out of the box and run some real solid races. Make a little bit of money, not lose money and just get through the season and then we can reflect.”