IRWIN DISCUSSES HPT OWNERSHIP AS THIRD ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES
TOPEKA, Kan. (March 30, 2006) - In 2002 Heartland Park Topeka's future looked very unclear. The track was in danger of closing due to some financial hardships faced by former ownership. The only full-time employee left in the office was someone to answer the phones. Most callers were attempting to collect a past-due debt, others checking in to see if the facility would ever open again. A major economic force in the community was in danger of never again hearing the sound of a finely-tuned race car engine.
In October of that year, the owner of a road course in north-central Illinois made the trip to Topeka to see what kind of asset a property like Heartland Park Topeka could be. After touring the track and seeing the potential in the race complex, the wheels were set in motion.
One day prior to his third anniversary of ownership, Raymond Irwin sat down in his office which didn't even exist when he took over on March 31, 2003 and reflected on the past three years, and the future of Heartland Park Topeka.
Q: Could you ever have imagined how far Heartland Park Topeka would come along in three years?
IRWIN: Everything that our staff has been doing over the last three years has been with a long-term vision. It is essential that your organization has goals, and that you work to achieve those...and I feel we've been pretty successful. But in all honesty, I never dreamed that the community would support our efforts like it has. If you look at the number of event days we've added in three years, and also consider the construction projects, you're talking about a minimum of five years to get those kinds of things done, more likely seven to ten years. I mean this with all sincerity...without the support from the community, the City of Topeka, the State of Kansas, and the efforts of our staff, none of this would have been possible.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you've faced since taking over ownership?
IRWIN: I would say that the biggest challenge has been providing consistent direction in long term planning, while still making sure the projects our staff is working on today are fulfilled. As an owner I'm always trying to see trends in the motorsports industry, and seeing opportunities to advance the track's business interests. But you also have to remember to develop and grow the existing facilities and events you've already planned on doing. With Heartland Park Topeka we're more than just a drag strip, road course, or dirt track. We're all three. While you're working to control costs and provide direction for the staff on drag strip activities, we also have to remember that the road course or dirt track also needs the same attention. At times that can be extremely challenging, but also exciting at the same time.
Q: What has been one of your proudest moments since you took over ownership?
IRWIN: I have two answers, and they are both connected. I feel that the willingness and dedication of the staff we've assembled is extraordinary. We've got a great team with us. I'm also extremely grateful for the loyalty and support of our fans, sponsors, and our community. And all of that rolls into our biggest achievement to this point...bringing the staff and community together to gain the confidence of SCCA's Board of Director's to award the National Championship Runoffs0x00ae to Heartland Park and Topeka even though our renovation project hadn't even started. That's quite an accomplishment.
Q: What about the next three years?
IRWIN: I really envision Heartland Park Topeka meeting and exceeding the growing expectations of our facility within the motorsports industry. As our name has started to gain clout over the past few years, racers and promoters are starting to take notice. It shows in the number of new events we've added. And as that reputation continues to solidify, I want to exceed everything they could have imagined about what we have done, or what we can do as a team and as a track.
As a corollary to that point, I'd like to pursue racing-oriented businesses and show them that Topeka is the perfect community to relocate their business. Topeka is centrally located, and home to a major motorsports venue like Heartland Park Topeka. Relocating their business not only supplements racing activities, but also the economic climate of this area. More businesses mean more jobs for the area, and that's important.
I'd also like to continue the growth of our schedule. We have well over 200 race dates this year, and in the next three years my vision is to have something on track every day of the week, from March to November. Of course there are going to be some dates that are affected by weather and the like, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities that we could have something happening every day in that time frame.