When it comes to saving South Arcade Speedway from possible extinction, owner/promoter Mike Lauterborn was all ears Friday night. With the dirt track temporarily closed due to financial problems, Lauterborn reached out to the race teams for suggestions to help the track survive.
About 50 people attended Friday's two-hour meeting. Lauterborn agreed to several suggestions and said the track will reopen for racing July 9.
Changes include a race purses based on car counts, altered safety requirements for the lower classes, a new starting time and reduced grandstand admission.
Lauterborn purchased the track last winter and along with the usual start-up costs, he has also suffered with low car counts and poor grandstand attendance so far in 2010 prompting financial losses.
Lauterborn said he lost $3,000 a week for the first six weeks of this season. He spent almost $11,000 two weeks ago to bring in the United E-Mod Series and was burned when the series brought only seven more cars to the track compared to his usual car count.
He also has made $50,000-$60,000 worth of improvements to the facility, has to pay a mortgage, and spends $1,200-$1,500 a week on insurance. In return he has had low car counts, usually fewer than 60 per night for five divisions, and only 250-300 fans have been in the grandstand each week.
Lauterborn then gave the floor to the teams and the first suggestion raised was to reduce the purse payoff each night in each division when a full field of 20-24 cars is not present in that division. Lauterborn had been paying out a full purse even when the car counts were low in a division.
Lauterborn has decided that he will move to a tier-type purse. While the formula is still being worked out, a possible scenario will likely be that a full purse will be paid out when 20-24 cars are present. The purse will be reduced when it is between 10-20 and reduced further still when the class has five to nine cars.
Lauterborn said he has sought potential sponsors to help defray the cost but has had several local companies decline saying that they were not treated well by past promoters of the track. Lauterborn is trying to mend these fences.
Many drivers also said that some of the lower class teams have stayed away due to Lauterborn's stricter safety rules. Now required for all drivers in all divisions is complete safety apparel including fire suits, head/neck restraints, newer helmets and fire-proof gloves. Some of the lower class teams are upset because some have $500 or less invested in their cars and the safely items could cost twice as much.
It was decided that for the faster classes, such as the Crate Late Models and E-Mods, the full safely gear will be still be required. Most drivers in these classes already have this safety gear anyway.
In the lower classes including the Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Pure Stocks, the rule book is being amended to state that safety gear is recommended but not required. Lauterborn is also having these drivers who choose not to use the safety gear, sign a waiver absolving the track of any liability.
Also to help more drivers get to the track on time to race, the Friday starting time has been moved back to 7:30 p.m.
To help fans, the admission price for regular five division shows will be reduced from $12 to $10. Lauterborn will allow fans to bring in small coolers but not bags of food.
Many applauded when someone stood up and said "we don't race at this level for the money but for the fun." Hopefully, the fun continues.