In 1960, Ronald P. Bennett, Gordon Becker and others put the first shovel into the ground of what became Holland International Speedway. It was part of the process of realizing their dream of owning and operating a speedway. The first green flag flew there later that year.
Stocks cars have circled the high-banked asphalt Southern Erie oval each season since, but a red flag was thrown on this year due to unique circumstances.
The difficulties at Holland are rooted in complications resulting from a lease-to-own agreement Bennett and Becker forged in 2018 with local businessman Daniel J. Hutchinson to operate Holland. The lease agreement was terminated in May and track operations reverted back to Bennett and Becker.
On Friday, Bennett and Becker invited The News to the track to see the enormous work that must be done in order to reopen Holland. Still, they said they are working hard to reopen the track as soon as possible. It just may take a while.
No timetable has been set as to when racing can begin. The track will hold a Crash-A-Rama event on Sept. 7.
"That's going to be a big event," Becker said. "It will help with the overall plan toward getting this place completely back in motion."
Aside from the normal challenges of reopening the track, several buildings, including the guest services building, autograph booth, pizza stands and other track fixtures had been torn down or altered before Becker and Bennett regained control of the track. Now they must reconstruct much of it before they can host a race program.
Both owners say they are working hard toward a bright future, where Holland will again become the prominent local track. During Friday's meeting, they produced construction blueprints of the new main spectator gate area that will be built, along with other projects.
"We are currently resetting and refurbishing the entire place," Becker said. "Starting with the main entrance and the guest services is one of the highlights of the rebuild. There are other upgrades to some of the buildings and the facility in general. There's a lot of cleanup to do. We got a long ways to go and we're working hard on it every day.
"There's 130 acres here and many buildings are part of the facility and it takes quite a bit of time. We want to get this place back up and operating right. You have to do it right before you start racing and we're going to do that and it's going to take some time but we will let everyone know as soon as things are complete."
Due to the fact that Bennett and Becker did not take over the track until May, just as the local season was getting underway, it put them behind when it comes to sponsorship and marketing plans.
"In today's market, you have to have all your sponsorships in order and that's done in the offseason and when you start in the middle of the summer, you don't have the opportunity to put those together," Becker said. "But we'll get them all back on line as time goes on. This is a great place and we are going to make it work again."
Bennett summarized his message of what he wanted to communicate to the racing public.
"We want to return this to the days when we had fun up here. It's a fun track," he said. "That's what we want to do. Racing has turned around a little bit now. You don't race every week like we did 30 and 40 years ago. Now we race special events. ...
"We're looking forward to the year 2020, and as soon as this September comes, we'll be working on the new season and working with the racing community. I think that's important. Racing has to be one thing in that you have to work with other area race tracks. Now that Lancaster is running, just like we ran special events, we have to make sure that we assist each other and cooperate so we both can be successful. That means a lot to me.
"I just want to return Holland to what it was, where I used to come up here on a Saturday night and mingle around with the spectators and drivers and really enjoy myself. I'm looking forward to that, but I know it's a ways down the road. I guess you could say it's back to the future. But Holland will race again."