THERE'S A BID TO BRING MAJOR LEAGUE DRAG RACING TO LOUISIANA
When Nelson Hoyos came into drag racing decades ago, the most valuable lesson he learned was the value of dreaming big. And he's got a big one brewing right now.
The dream is not significant, not because it's unattainable. It's large because it could be significant for the sport if it becomes a reality.
Hoyos seeks to bring major league drag racing back to Louisiana for the first time since May 1990, when NHRA promoted the Cajun Nationals at State Capitol Dragway in Baton Rouge, La.
With a state grant and additional funds being sought, Hoyos said everything but the racing surface could be bulldozed at No Problem Raceway and rebuilt to NHRA national event standards. The timing couldn't be better with the departure of Houston Raceway Park and No Problem's one-hour proximity from New Orleans, La.
For once in his life, after successfully managing multiple facilities, Hoyos said he's in the best position ever as a drag strip general manager desirous of one day becoming an owner.
"This has been a dream come true," said Hoyos, who, along with his wife Marla, manages the newly upgraded facility. "I have a great understanding with the owner here, and he's given me a ton of room to work in and build what I hope to be my dream facility. Our crew has been working hard 24/7 for the last two years to bring this place to where it needs to go. I think that we're slowly accomplishing that."
There's a long way to go to hear Hoyos' passionate speel to come to fruition, but it's currently in the passing lane on the road to reality. Hoyos came to work at No Problem Raceway two years ago and came with a vision.
"We laid out a game plan of what we needed to do to make this facility come back to life," Hoyos explained. "It had been dormant for quite a few years, not a lot happening, and so it was a little stale, stagnant. We had long-term goals for the facility, so I gave him a long list of things we needed to change and improve on, and he told me, 'Go. Go get it done."
One day, and in the not-so-distant future, the current ownership of No Problem Raceway is very much aware Hoyos wants to purchase the track.
"We have an understanding," Hoyos admitted. "I could go tomorrow to his office and sign it over. He would be willing to sign it over to me. He's told me point-blank, 'Whenever you're ready, it's yours."
"That's our goal. We're going to basically have this facility, it's going to be ours to control 100%, and we have the vision to make it grow, expand it, and bring real national events into town and help the state of Louisiana."
Putting a bandaid on a bullet wound just isn't going to work.
"It's easier just to start fresh. And so we're hoping that we can put together the funding to do it the proper way the first time, and that way, we can really all benefit from the improvements.
"We had the opportunity to meet with Glen Cromwell and said, 'Hey, Nelson, you're making an awful lot of noise down there in Louisiana. What's going on?"
Cromwell came down to Belle Rose, Louisiana, to see it for himself. He saw a hopping bar/restaurant open for business during qualifying as well as solid spectator attendance, sitting under the covered grandstands taking in the action of the NHRA Div. 4 season opener.
Hoyos gave his best presentation of selling the vision to Cromwell, who left with the belief if anyone could pull it off, it would be Hoyos.
"We still need, obviously, a lot more grandstands," Hoyos said. "We need a lot more parking property. We need to do a lot of infrastructure work to be able to host 20,000, 30,000 people into the grandstands comfortably, egress - ingress. So there are things that have to be done to really help the facility to where it can host one of these major events, but the economic impact to a local community is monstrous with one of these events. And that's where we're headed. We're trying to help our communities grow."
Hoyos has done the economic impact studies and stands prepared to tell anyone who will listen.
"An event like an NHRA divisional event could bring anywhere between $3 million to $5 million of economic impact to the local community," Hoyos said. "A big event like the national events could be in the $30 to $40 million and sometimes even more than that based on the number of people we get here. So it could be a true benefit to the local communities."
If everything comes to fruition, Hoyos said the community would need at least one to two years to deliver an infrastructure of lodging and restaurants to accommodate the rush of clientele.
"That's exactly what we're hoping," Hoyos explained. "Once they see our growth potential internally, I'm hoping that then the community will do its part and put more hotels in the area, put more restaurants in the area to help the local communities."
Hoyos said he's reached out to Ascension Parish over at Gonzalez (La.); there are roughly 30 or so hotels.
"Within a 30 to 40-mile parameter, we really need to have as many hotels as we can have and as many eating places that we can have because we're going to put in here hundreds of thousands of people through the weekend," Hoyos said.
Hoyos said the location is perfect with the abundance of energy-related businesses and refineries, and urban sprawl is the least of his worries.
"It's sad to see our sport going away like that because these huge companies come in, and they want these large parcels that the racetracks own, and they're giving just an extraordinary amount of money to the racetrack, which the owners really can't say no," Hoyos said. "But it's unfortunate because when one racetrack goes away, then that clientele will say, 'You know what? We're going to sell our race cars. We're going to start hunting and fishing and doing something else."
Hoyos' vision transcends just the drag strip.
"We have a road course here," Hoyos said. "I'm going to be adding a go-kart track, and we also have a mud pit. So our goal is to have a facility that's open seven days a week and has all types of riding and driving experiences, not only with go-karts but with the cars going down the drag strip and also cars on the road race track so that we can bring people here from all over the country every day."
He's even considered putting a Chick-Fil-A, Outback, and other successful businesses on the property.
"You know racers and race fans love to eat," Hoyos added.
And Hoyos doesn't consider his vision a pipe dream and has already prepared his emotions for the reality it could all come true.
"There's nothing better than to have people coming to experience something that they've longed for a long time. It's not like you have a car repair that you've got to get repaired. This is something that you're going to enjoy doing. They will come out here, spend money, and spend a few days with us, so the hotels are going to make money. They buy gas; they buy food; they buy all sorts of things while they're here. There are a lot of areas that they can go and tour while they're here. So we're just a catalyst to helping the community grow.
"I have a vision, and I will do what I can to make it go through. I think that this could become our Disney World right here. This would be a phenomenal place to spend time with the families. We're building this for families to grow. Not just racers, but people who want to experience something that's adrenaline filled. This is the place to come to."