From Fritz Roehrig, Big Diamond Raceway Owner/Promoter
As all of us know, there are seasons for everything in life. Here at Big Diamond we have had some great seasons in the past, and some bad ones too. But no seasons have compared to the unbearable ones over the last few years. In the past we called this "the cycle of racing" which revealed ups and downs of car counts and fans. However, there has been no rebounding as of late, and this last cycle has slid into a decline which has not recovered.
This past few seasons Big Diamond has witnessed some of the lowest car counts and fan counts in its 35 year history, which only made the prior declining seasons worse.
The writing is on the wall, and you just need to look at it through "business eyes" and see that the support of the past has significantly decreased, while the expense of racing has increased. Also, when your once successful main division becomes a liability instead of an asset, and your support divisions are actually healthier than your main division, the reality of this in dollars and cents is staggering.
To make matters worse the weather has not been cooperative; and in fact, over the past four seasons, one half of one season was completely rained out, and now this season on almost every Friday night except for a few, it rained, called for rain, showered, drizzled or threatened to rain even when it wasn't supposed to. Even our Stevenson Memorial night fireworks display had to be shot off in the rain, and whatever fans were there had to watch it from their cars.
Let's just face it, the rain has killed us. And when rain threatens, fans don't come out like they used to. Years ago you could run a show in bad weather and either break even or lose some money, but with the expense of a big division, insurance, and fuel costs, you lose big money every event you run in bad weather.
Couple this with the fact that there is very little in the way of local support for the track. The demographics show that only 25% of our fan base is from Schuylkill County. It grieves me when a local business has to depend on outsiders for its main source of support. Nonetheless, its people from Berks, Lehigh, Bucks, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties -- in addition to people from New Jersey -- who attend and support events at Big Diamond. And with the rising cost of fuel in addition to little local support, these combined factors have devastated our business.
We've endured so long, but cannot continue doing so any longer. That being said, all these issues have cumulatively contributed to my decision to close the gates of Big Diamond Raceway indefinitely.
Currently, the 2005 season has one more race left on it, the second annual Enduro, promoted by my step-son Jake Smulley, on Sunday, September 18th at 2:00 PM. The race will definitely be run and it will not just close this season out, but will mark the end of Big Diamond as we know it.
This is a sad time for JoAnn and I, but things cannot continue as is. I am a businessman and have repeatedly evaluated the status of the track from this perspective...and the only conclusion one can come to is that the car support and fan support is no longer there. Because of that, we have no choice but to close down.
At the same time, as we were preparing to break the news to our long-time friend and race director Jeff Gromis, he was also preparing us with some devastating news of his own. Because of family commitments and his personal health, Jeff needs to step back from his second full-time job he held at Diamond for decades. Health and family are much more important than a job. I know that when I went through my health crisis after having a stroke in 2003, I had to pull back from track management and spend what little strength I had on track preparation. Jeff was instrumental in keeping Big Diamond operations afloat for us at that time, and we wouldn't have been open these past few years were it not for him. We thank him for all his hard work and dedication, and for always going above and beyond the scope of his job. We wish him well and will be praying for him and his family. Jeff is emphatically one of my best friends and confidants -- and that will never change.
JoAnn and I wish to thank all the drivers, crews, officials, fans, sponsors, workers, and all those who participated in dirt track racing at Big Diamond over the years. While this season of our lives is now over, we don't know what the future holds, but we do know that the seasons we have all shared over the past 35 years have come to an end.
Thank you everyone, and God bless.