INCOMING OWNERS HAVE BIG PLANS FOR MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY
Chris Winter is one of the new owners of Maple Grove Raceway. Winter is joined in the ownership group with Joe Casella and Jordan Levitt. The Mohnton, Pennsylvania facility is just under contract. The deal is not complete yet.
“The purchase has not gone through yet,” Winter said. “That’s where the mistake is. It’s just under contract. We still have to get through title and due diligence, which is why we didn’t want it to get out yet. Yes, the other pieces, the restaurant, the liquor licenses, the acreage is correct. When the deal goes through, which we’re hoping for late spring, early summer, we’re going to plan expansion. There will be a facility for go-kart racing, road racing, an off-road park, drifting – there will be other motorsports, but drag racing will be our primary focus.”
When the track when up for sale last June for $8 million, the concern with so many fans in the Northeast that it would be sold to developers. Their fear was that the facility would be turned into houses.
Instead, it was sold to three individuals, who have more than 100-years of racing background.
“Everyone has been concerned that it’s going away,” he said. “Everyone feared that it was going to be torn apart and turned into homes. That’s 100% not our intention. That’s the plan.”
The plan, according to Winter, is to place additional facilities around the drag strip.
“We’re going to put them where the parking lots are,” Winter said. “We’re going to put in what we call our multi-use track where the spectator parking lot is. There used to be a circle track there (Brecknock Speedway), and where that facility used to be, that’s where the multi-use track will be. The multi-use track will be used for karting, drifting, and circle-track racing. It’s going to be all combined into one track. On the backside of the track, which would be the racers parking area, all the way up behind the hill to the maintenance building, that would be the road course area. It would go through the tree line and that way. Auto cross would be just a big area so we’re going to repave the area to make sure it’s safe and not bumpy. For the off-road park is going to be where the shut down area is and across the street from the drag strip.
“There’s a couple of homes up on the hill and the woods, that’s all part of the Maple Grove property. That’s where we would do the off-road stuff, like quads, all-terrain vehicles, motocross. That building by the houses will be removed and that’s where the ticket sales and concessions will go.
The drag strip, which has been around since the 1960’s when it was called Maple Grove Drag-O-Way, will be the heart and soul of the facility.
“We’re going to be building a couple of different motorsports facilities, but nothing is going to impact the drag strip,” he said. “We’re not using the drag strip for anything but drag racing. The other facilities are not going to impact the national event or impact parking. The multi-use track will be used for drifting, karting, and circle-track racing, mostly modifieds. The road course will be an IMSA-style three-mile track. The drag strip will be the heart and soul of the track.”
Once the deal is finalized, the ownership group plans to target the bathrooms and concessions as the first things to fix. At the national event, people have had to wait in long lines to use a Mr. Bob-type of bathroom.
Maple Grove Raceway appears to be on the verge of new ownership, potentially meaning a long future for racing at one of the East Coast’s premier dragstrips.#DragRacingNews #nhra - https://t.co/Qrck46LoA1 pic.twitter.com/5r76345hKc— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 7, 2020
“The plan initially is to get the bathrooms and concessions fixed up,” Winter said. “That’s where we’re going to start. I think that’s going to need the most improvement right now. Shortly after that, we’re planning on opening the restaurant and bar. Then, we’re going to go with the off-road track and the multi-use track. We have a one-year plan, a three-year plan, and a five-year plan. By five-years, everything should be up and running and fully finished. The first-year will be fixing up the dragstrip and getting it back up to where it needs to be. By year three, we should have the multi-use track in and by year five, we should have the road course in. It’s either going to be a permanent structure, or a mobile bathroom depending on the town.”
The plan is to actually host several events at one time. However, when the facility is hosting a large event, there will be no other events going on at the same time.
“With drag racing where it’s at, you need to have other steams of income,” he said. “It wouldn’t survive with just the drag strip. When it’s a smaller event — I’m not talking about the NHRA national event — like a points night or a normal night on the drag strip, we will hold something else on the road course or the multi-use track. However, such as larger events, like the national event, we’re not going to have anything else going on. We won’t be able to host two large events at the same time. We can host a medium-sized event, or a small event, with a medium-sized event once the other facilities are up and running.”
The new owners already have plans to attract new events to the area.
“The plan with the other tracks that we’re doing, such as the road course, we’re trying to get an IMSA event,” Winter said. “Currently, it’s being hosted at Watkins Glen (New York) or Lime Rock (Connecticut). We would like to have an IMSA-style event there. The road course, as far as drifting goes, we’ll attempt to get Formula Drift or a bigger drift-style of event. With each track, we’re hoping to have one bigger event similar to the NHRA national event, but for that particular category. We’re going to try to get Monster Trucks and put them on the multi-use track and we could do like a Night of Thrills type of show with Monster Trucks, Demolition Derby, and put on a whole big show.
“I definitely have ideas on more events to do there, but I cannot comment on them yet. We’re going to be working on some things to bring some spectators out. We have ideas for Rallycross; ideas for the drag strip to new events. I have ideas from working at [Old Bridge Township] Raceway Park and ideas from being a racer. I have the best of both worlds. I have experience as a racer and now as an owner.”
Winter does not want to interfere with Raceway Park, where is still works, as they are converted the former historic drag strip into a drifting facility. Formula Drift announced at SEMA that they are moving their event, which was previously at Wall Stadium to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey.
“That’s the plan, we’ll have to talk to them and see,” he said. “We do not want to impact any of the other tracks locally. We want to work with them, especially, Raceway Park being that it’s my home track, and we especially do not want to impact them. The plan is to increase the fan base and increase fans in the area and have a second event. I think if we can work together, we can compliment each other. With Formula Drift, it would have to be one event at their place and one event at our place. But with other drag strips and venues in the area, we’re potentially looking into a joint point series, like working with Cecil County Dragway (Maryland).”
With his background, Winter knows how difficult it is for racers to get to events without sponsors. He also knows how difficult it is for families to attend events, especially when it’s expensive.
“I know what the racer is going through from their aspect,” Winter said. “I know how hard it is financially for a racer to get to the track. As a parent of six children, I know how expensive it is to go to a spectator sport. I want to use all of that knowledge to change events around. I want to make it affordable to families to come and watch. I want to make the shows more exciting, because at the end of the day, if we get the right shows in, and get the right spectators in, racers can get help and attract new sponsors. If you have thousands of people watching instead of hundreds of people watching, there will be more opportunities for our racers to make money and new sponsorships, which would bring more racers to the track and more spectators. The plan is to have bigger events and medium-sized events mixing together. For an example, we’re going to be having a big event on the fourth of July with the Freedom Festival (event is called Independence Showdown). Instead of going and watching a normal bracket race, we’re planning on having food trucks and Monster Trucks rides, and fireworks. We’re planning on making it an entire family environment for the weekend.”
While the new owners can control the rates for events, one event they cannot control is the NHRA national event. They have no power to lower those tickets.
“Unfortunately, I have no control over the national event,” he said. “Everything is controlled by the NHRA. However, other events, like say if we have a Monster Truck show, we’ll have packages for families available. For example, we’re going to go with a Family of Four pack that includes four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas, and a couple of fries. This way, the family knows up front that they can go out and see a show for $100. If they want to buy more food, alcohol, merchandise or souvenirs, that would be on top of it. But at least, they would be able to get in and see a show for a reasonable price. At the end of the day, I would rather have 20,000 people coming and seeing a show at a reasonable price than having a thousand people coming in and charging a lot.
“When the NHRA comes here, they take the track over. Whatever happens during the NHRA national event, it becomes the NHRA. Our hands are very tied on that weekend unfortunately.”
The American Drag Racing Association staged a limited schedule in 1984 and 1985 in venues such as Kansas City, Tulsa, and Spokane. We bring you the event from the old KCIR with a familiar face racing in the FC division. #ClassicDragRacing - https://t.co/rfWaeOOQlT pic.twitter.com/83yYEbFmnt— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 8, 2020