DES MOINES, Iowa — The announcement came Wednesday from the Iowa State Fair Speedway that racing was being shut down indefinitely.
However, state fair officials say that racing has just been put on pause.
The Iowa State Fairgrounds are getting revved up for renovations to the midway and the grandstands, but the speedway is going to be a casualty.
“Our intention is to bring motorsports back here in 2018 and 2019,” said State Fair Marketing Director Mindy Williamson.
Iowa State Fair Speedway Race Promoter Tony Moro says he was presented a longer timeline in his meeting with Fair Manager and CEO Gary Slater. The timeline was 3-5 years, maybe longer.
“It came as a shock to us, an absolutely a shock. It probably hasn’t even set in yet to be honest,” said Moro.
Moro says part of that shock is over the loss of Des Moines’ racing tradition.
“This is the history of the sport right here. There are a lot of people who remember the days Mario Andretti, David Pearson, and Bobby Allison came and raced on this historic track,” said Moro.
Todd Shute is one of those people. He had been going to the speedway since he was a child and is now a racer himself.
“It’s definitely not a good thing for the community of racers and I’m definitely going to miss it. I hope that there’s a future for some other plans for getting a racetrack back at the fair,” said Shute.
Fair officials say that’s their goal, and say the plan is to put in a new 3/8ths track.
“It’s just one of those things that we’re trying to work through in the renovations to make sure we can make it even better than what they’ve been getting here in the grandstands,” said Williamson.
Until then, though, racers and race fans will have to travel to get their fix.
“This racing track is right here in their backyard, so there are a lot of them that are going to have to reevaluate if they want to travel. Probably the closest place is 40-50 miles away if they live right here in the metro,” said Moro
The Iowa State Fair has funding in place for the midway renovations but not for the grandstands or future speedway.
Moro says the situation also hurts his business. His promotion group recently spent over $15,000 on apparel and a new website.