Racetrack nears for Sherman Co. site
Motorcourse set for Grass Valley
Indianapolis, Daytona, Nurburgring, Watkins Glenn, Monte Carlo, and ... Grass Valley?
Right now, 436 acres of Sherman County wheatfield are poised to become a new motorsports mecca for the Northwest.
Pacific Motorsports Management, Inc., a Portland-based group of sports car drivers and enthusiasts, bought the acreage one mile east of Grass Valley on Blagg Lane.
They've also secured appropriate zoning for construction of a permanent racecourse and associated support buildings. The Sherman County Court gave final approval in February. According to a PMMI press release, "Phase one development will include a road course of approximately 2.6 miles in length, 15 turns and an abundance of elevation change. The support structures include garages, timing and scoring tower, turn stations, grandstands, maintenance buildings, and offices. Potential users include the Sports Car Club of America, International Conference of Sports Car Clubs, Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association, Portland Karting Association and numerous other sports car clubs, motorcycle clubs, government agencies and media production companies."
Sherman County Planner Georgia Macnab said PMMI officials have gone through all the necessary steps.
"We've been working on this for almost a year," she said. "First came the creation of a new 'motorsports complex' zone; then they had to apply to county to have the zone placed upon that property, and then they had to get approval for the development in that zone."
Macnab said PMMI estimated that, when fully developed, the facility might draw 1,500 people for a weekend's activities.
That's a big influx in a county of 1,900 people and a town of 170. "The way they explain it," Macnab said, "the events are set up so they don't all come in at once, just gradually come in for the weekend, and slowly leave. There wasn't enough [traffic] that ODOT was concerned."
Mark Harken of PMMI confirmed that assessment. He said the group plans to operate ICSCC (International Conference of Sports Car Clubs), or SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) sanctioned events. Such a setup features seven different race groups, each containing multiple classes, A race would feature cars from the classes within a specific race group on the track at the same time. As the different races were run, groups of drivers and their support crews would come and go. He outlined a typical weekend schedule. "Friday, the racers would come in to prepare for Saturday morning practice sessions. Saturday afternoon would be the first qualifying session. Sunday morning would be the second qualifying session. Then each class would run a 30-minute race on Sunday afternoon." Such a schedule, he said, led to more of a steady stream of traffic than any large clumps, coming or going. "They've got it planned in 5 stages," said Macnab. "The first stage will be this 2.6 mile track. Eventually they hope to add a dragstrip, an oval track, kart racing and other facilities."
Sherman County Commissioner Sherry Kaseberg said the Grass Valley location would be a logical stop in "a kind of a circuit between people who would rent the track for a weekend, and who might also go to Tri-cities, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Bend."
In addition to the amateur racing schedule, Kaseberg said PMMI told the court the facility could be used as a test track to practice racing, hold driving schools, and get tested for licenses. "They also spoke of the need for testing emergency service vehicles," she said. "These race car guys love the site, love the place and love the people," Kaseberg said. "It's been a really good match."
Georgia Macnab agreed. "There was no opposition to any of the development," she said. "Sometimes things come up, but there have been none with this proposal."
PMMI's Hanken said the corporation formally formed in 2002, but "A couple of us have been looking for 20 years to do this, spending a lot of time Gilliam, Jefferson and Sherman counties over the years, One of our members, Bob Caspell, retired about two weeks before we put the corporation together. He's spent more time in Sherman County than at home in the last couple of years."
Hanken said the group plans carefully for the long term and doesn't expect it all to come together instantly. "We have an agreement with previous landowner which gives him farming rights to all the land we're not going to use until we need it. And we're laying out the track to take in as much scabland as possible, so he can farm as much of it as possible." The group hopes to finish construction of phase one in time to hold a couple of races in 2006, and hold a full 17-week season in 2007.
Hanken said PMMI has been able to raise the money to buy the land outright, and expects to complete its initial financing in "two or three weeks." Locals interested in becoming investors can contact Hanken at (503)799-4208 or at PMMIdevelopment@aol,com.
"The people in Grass Valley are very excited," Georgia Macnab said. Commissioner Kaseberg added that the county has seen signs of interest in development of Grass Valley by speculators, "There might be this wonderful little ripple effect." she said, "to put a little boost in Sherman County."