The race to find a new owner for the former Miller Motorsports Complex started more than two years ago and has taken more twists and turns than the facility’s European-style racetrack.
But finally, a new owner may soon emerge.
As we reported in last Thursday’s edition, on Nov. 21 the Tooele County Commission unanimously approved a $1.55 million settlement agreement with Center Point Management and other associated parties to end a lawsuit that has stopped the county from selling Utah Motorsports Campus.
In the agreement, Center Point states it is no longer interested in buying UMC and will not participate or interfere in any future sale of the property by the county. In turn, the county commissioners agree to place $1.55 million in an escrow account.
Half of that amount will be paid to Center Point when 3rd District Court Judge Randall Skanchy, who is presiding over the current lawsuit, dismisses the case. The other half will be paid to Center Point upon the sale of the racetrack to a buyer on or by March 30, 2018.
If Center Point breaks the agreement, any funds not paid would be withheld and Center Point would be required to refund any funds already paid by the county, according to the agreement.
Tooele County Commissioner Myron Bateman said the commission had worked hard to reach a solution and to get Utah Motorsports Campus back on the tax rolls, which is an important and responsible goal. But an attorney representing the county in the lawsuit also gave an explanation that may have been the real fuel behind the settlement.
Without surprise, it’s about money.
“The alternative to the agreement is to continue litigation,” said Barton Kunz with Salt Lake City-based law firm of Goebel Anderson. “But that would take time, and meanwhile, the property would remain in the hands of the county and not in the hands of private entities that can develop it. It would also increase or continue attorneys’ fees litigating the case, and the property would continue in legal limbo like it is now.”
It is possible, if not probable, the lawsuit to force the county to sell UMC to Center Point would have dragged on for years. Meanwhile, attorney fees would mount, as Kunz warned, and the value of UMC, without a viable new owner, would likely plummet. The combination of spiraling legal fees and racetrack operational costs would be a burden the county commission — and local taxpayers — would find hard to sustain during a protracted lawsuit.
From a pragmatic standpoint, and the county commission’s strong desire to quickly transfer the racetrack from the public to the private sector, the $1.55 million settlement may soon prove to be the wiser choice.
Thankfully, the county commission and Center Point have settled sooner rather than later. Hopefully, Judge Skanchy will soon accept the settlement agreement and allow Tooele County to put UMC back up for sale. And may the county soon land a buyer that will make the best use of the racetrack, and if possible, turn UMC into a financially successful facility that creates more local jobs and attracts more visitors to our area.