In an editorial two weeks ago, we rendered support for the Tooele County Commission’s choice to pay a $1.55 million settlement to Center Point Management and other related parties to end a lawsuit that has stopped the county from selling the former Miller Motorsports Park.
After digging deeper into the math, it appears the settlement makes even more sense.
On Nov. 21, the County Commission announced the settlement with Center Point, which has agreed to no longer interfere with the county’s efforts to sell the racetrack, known today as Utah Motorsports Campus. Days later, 3rd District Court Judge Randall Skanchy approved the settlement and dismissed the case. Under the agreement, the county must pay Center Point the full $1.55 million by March 30, 2018.
Our support for the $1.55 million payout is simple: The lawsuit to force the county to sell UMC to Center Point would have likely dragged on for years with attorney fees hitting the stratosphere. Meanwhile, UMC’s sale value would certainly plummet, despite continuing efforts by the county to keep the facility viable. Mounting legal fees, yearly operational costs, and declining appeal to potential buyers would make the racetrack an unpleasant burden for the County Commission and taxpayers to sustain while the lawsuit played out.
And just how unpleasant that burden is now, and how it could grow if the racetrack isn’t sold soon, was explored in a front-page news analysis in last Tuesday’s edition. Under the headline “After the bills are paid, how much will county make on UMC sale?” the analysis reported that the County Commission faces a possible $10 million in bills and reimbursements to be paid when the racetrack is sold.
That amount is comprised of the settlement, legal fees since the lawsuit was filed against the county in Dec. 2015, three years of the racetrack’s operational expenses, and assets purchased to make the racetrack functional after the county took over the facility from The Miller Group in Oct. 2015. The Miller Group had announced in May 2015 that it would not renew its lease with the county, which meant the racetrack and all of its facilities would become county property. The county owns the 500 acres on which the racetrack resides.
With the lawsuit dismissed, and faced with a payment of $1.55 million to Center Point by March 30, the County Commission is highly motivated to get UMC off the county’s books. It’s also motivated to get a price that clears all red ink and puts several million dollars into the county’s coffers.
If Mitime Investment and Development Group, which offered $20 million for the racetrack in Aug. 2015 but pulled out after Center Point filed a lawsuit, throws its hat — and $20 million — back into the ring, the county could potentially net nearly $10 million after paying the bills. And that amount could be another $2.9 million if assets purchased for the facility retain 100 percent of their value at the time of sale.
But if Mitime’s presumed offer, or offers from other potential buyers, comes in at less than $10 million, the County Commission may face a financial nightmare that may make it wish Larry H. Miller had never stepped foot in Tooele County. Along with that will be certain taxpayer blowback, for County Commissioner Shawn Milne said, “It’s not taxpayers that will be paying for these costs.”
It is our hope the sale of UMC goes quickly and the county receives a fair, if not generous price. It is also our hope that, under private sector ownership, UMC becomes a financially successful racetrack that creates more local jobs and attracts more visitors to the area.