A week after a district court judge invalidated the sale of the former Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne said the commissioners are confident the 2016 racing season at the racetrack will go on.
However, local racing organizations are concerned that a delay in the sale of the motorsports park may curb plans for the 2016 racing season.
Third District Court Judge Robert Adkins threw out the county’s decision to sell the Miller Motorsports Park to Mitime Investments, owned by Li Shufu, a Chinese businessman, in an oral decision issued from the bench on Dec. 17.
In his Dec. 17 ruling, Adkins also invalidated terms of a proposed lease agreement that would have allowed Mitime to lease the facility under the same arrangement as the Miller Group had leased the facility since 2005.
“With the judge’s decision the racing community at Miller is really in limbo right now,” said Dave Kizerian, co-regional director of the Utah region of the National Auto Sport Association. “We need a timely decision that will preserve the stability of the facility as well as protect its potential for future growth.”
Kizerian is a co-owner of NASA Utah. He classifies his work with the association as a part-time job; he works a full-time job as a computer programmer.
Kizerian moved to Erda four years ago.
“I was involved in racing before we moved to Tooele County,” he said. “We came out here because we could afford to buy more land for our dream home in Tooele County, but the thought of being so close to Miller Motorsports Park was also on my mind.”
Kizerian’s organization consists of amateur racecar drivers. The drivers range from casual drivers who want to explore the limits of their vehicle to experienced serious amateur racers who border on being professional, he said.
NASA Utah usually runs eight three-day educational and racing events at Miller Motorsports Park during a year. Each event attracts 200 to 250 participants, not including additional crew, family and spectators, according to Kizerian.
The first event for NASA Utah for 2016 is scheduled for March 11-13, according to its website.
“As we get close to that first date and there is no agreement to operate the track, we might have to chop off a date from the schedule,” Kizerian said. “How many times we can do that before our people start looking elsewhere? I don’t know.”
While Kizerian wants a timely decision, he also cautions county commissioners about a rushed decision.
“The decision should not be hasty,” he said. “The commission needs to take time to make the right decision for the people of Tooele County and for the racing community.”
The racing community at MMP was very excited about the Mitime proposal that the court tossed out, Kizerian said.
“It was a very ambitious plan,” he said. “They had a good crew, good money, a lot of enthusiasm and a deeply held love for the track.”
MMP is essential to NASA Utah’s activities.
“There’s not another venue in Utah where we can do what we do,” Kizerian said.
The Utah Sport Bike Association shares Kizerian’s concerns.
The USBA holds six events each year at Miller Motorsports, according to USBA President Scott Rybarik.
USBA is a volunteer organization. Rybarik works full-time for IBM.
“Prior to Miller Motorsports Park, USBA ran races at a track that is now closed and did some events in large empty parking lots,” he said. “I don’t think we could find a facility in Utah to take the place of Miller Motorsports Park.”
Each event is for three days, with USBA running races on Saturday and Sunday. The USBA coordinates with another organization that runs educational activities on Friday before the races, according to Rybarik.
Each event pulls between 100 and 170 participants with an average of two or three family or spectators per participant, Rybarik said.
“If something happens and we and other organizations can’t run our schedule, I’m worried about what that will mean to the people in Tooele,” he said. “We’re talking about a lot of tourists coming to town for weekends, staying in motels, eating at restaurants and buying gas at our convenience stores.”
Rybarik moved to Stansbury Park about a year ago from Colorado specifically to be close to Miller Motorsports Park.
The sale of MMP started in May 2015 after the Larry H. Miller Group informed Tooele County that it would not renew its lease for the facility.
Upon termination of the lease, the land, the track, the buildings, and all other facilities becomes the property of Tooele County, according to the lease agreement.
In June the county commissioners announced they were not interested in owning and operating the racetrack. They later published a public notice of MMP’s sale with a July 23 deadline for bids.
Mitime Investment and Development, a company owned by a Chinese businessman and represented by Alan Wilson, the designer and original general manager of MMP, offered $20 million.
Center Point Management, a Wyoming limited liability corporation led by Las Vegas real estate developer Andrew Cartwright, offered $22.5 million.
Other offers for the facility were for $6 million or less, or were asking for a lease agreement, according to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.
Mitime’s purchase proposal included plans to keep the track operating under its current schedule and to immediately spend between $6 million and $8 million to upgrade the racetrack.
Other investments in Mitime’s proposal included a hotel, promotion of Chinese tourism along with other potential investments, including additional buildings, manufacturing facilities, and race courses.
Center Point’s proposal included a plan to keep the track operating as is, along with a $150 million investment in offices, condo-hotels, a light manufacturing facility, and high-end homes on the property but away from the track, according to Cartwright.
In his oral ruling on Dec. 17, Adkins voided the sale of the track because the property is worth more than the $20 million offered by Mitime, he said.
Adkins disregarded an unrebutted independent appraisal of the property and did not specify a value or method for determining the value of the property, leaving Tooele County uncertain as to what process the court expects it to follow, according to Broadhead.
Immediately after the trial, Tooele County commissioners said their preference is to try and sell the facility again.
However, they are waiting to see the judge’s written ruling before proceeding.
“We are anxiously awaiting that formal written ruling from Judge Adkins, so we can plan our next move,” said Milne.