<H1>Deja vu: Racing Unlimited Inc. lives on in Boardman<BR>
- Pamplin Media
- Central Oregonian - Sports
The largest conference room at the Port of Morrow's Riverfront Center overflowed one night last week with more than 300 people interested in learning more about the speedway proposed near Boardman.
The following article is an update on the proposed race track facility being planned for the northeast Oregon community of Boardman. If the story sounds familiar, it is because nearly the same thing almost happened here and before Racing Unlimited Inc. was turned away the same questions received almost identical responses
"This is going to be the jewel of the world," said Daniel Koszorus, one of the five board members of Racing Unlimited Inc., a Nevada-based company created solely for this project.
Stelian Onufrei, spokesperson for Racing Unlimited as well as owner of the California-based Diamond 2000 Construction company contracted to manage the project, painted a rosy picture.
He said the speedway, expected to break ground in August or September, will sustain many types of races, hopefully including Nascar and Winston Cup type races. He explained he is in negotiations with Nascar for racing contracts, but the organization will have to inspect the facilities before making promises. He added that Winston Cup races are earned, not contracted.
Indy cars, dragsters, motor cross, motorcycle racing and light duty trucks are expected to be among the events offered at the racetrack, say promoters . Koszorus said he also will bring semi truck racing to the track, the first event of it's type in America.
"I'd like to make it as international as possible," he said.
Local drivers would have permanent access to the track as well, Onufrei said.
The plan is to have six to eight big events a year, with anywhere from 120,000 to 160,000 fans, and 20 to 30 mid-to-small events annually. The promoters estimate the smaller events would draw between 50,000 and 70,000 fans.
Onufrei showed schematics and discussed plans for a 1.5 mile track, 4,100 foot drag race strip, media center and sky box, 100-foot tall grandstands, and parking for 1,500 RVs, with amenities. Plans also include an emergency services building, commercial gas station, 300,000 square foot retail center, a commercial building, six-screen cinema, fast food restaurant, an 8,000 square foot restaurant, three hotels, 24-lane bowling alley and outdoor mall.
The entire $400 million complex is planned for 1,100 acres of Port of Morrow land south of the Interstate 84, near the Boardman airport. Onufrei said the project will take 36 months from start to finish, but he's pushing for 24 months. He plans to build the business complex in conjunction with the speedway.
Onufrei assured the crowd that local people will be used as much as possible in the construction of the complex, but such an aggressive schedule will make that more difficult.
"I don't like to sound snobby or anything," Onufrei said. "We're coming into your community and we'd like to have your support. We are planing to use as many locals as possible, but it will take 2,500 to 3,000 jobs to build in this timetable."
He said when completed, there will be about 125 full time jobs at the speedway itself and about 500 for the related businesses. He also expects about 1,250 part-time positions during the actual racing.
With those numbers on the table, members of the crowd wanted to know where all those workers, and the 100,000 fans, will be housed.
"We're a little bit concerned about that ourselves ... We'll have to provide lodging," Onufrei said.
Boardman Mayor Tom Meyers noted there are dozens of housing lots available in town, and he and council member Gene Allen noted large numbers of employees working for other companies have always been able to find housing.
Onufrei said communities like Hermiston and Pendleton could expect considerable "spill-over" during the racing events, and that's good for the economy.
"Most of these people will come in for the weekend, spend their money, and leave," he said.
But with that many people, traffic is a concern. Traffic studies are under way. Gary Neal, Port of Morrow general manager, said the Port would do its best to notify the public of the results. At the moment, access is planned for Tower Road. While Onufrei said he will provide traffic control teams, Neal acknowledged that the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Morrow County Sheriff's Office will probably have to be involved as well.
Noise also generated some questions from the crowd.
"I used to live by a racetrack, and I take exception to the noise," said Boardman resident Kathy Martin. "It's louder than a freeway."
Onufrei disagreed. "In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency requires we are not louder than 96 decibels, which is less noise than a freeway," he said.
A wall 36 feet above the track and aluminum grandstands will help block and absorb the noise, he said.
Martin said tha's not enough.
"The track I lived by in Maine had small events only, nothing compared to this, and we had trees and everything between us," she said. "That didn't block the noise. If he plans to have open tracks, I plan to block it."
But most of the crowd seemed excited about the prospect of something so huge coming to the area.
"I think this will be great for the community," Boardman resident Chris Verley said. "Boardman has needed more businesses. Right now we have to go to Hermiston or Pendleton to shop. With this, people will be coming here to shop."