After a 12-hour hearing in Calgary, Alberta, a multi-million dollar, professional grade race track called Rockyview Motorsports Park was denied its development permits.
Motorsports is a prevalent and accepted form of recreation on much of the globe. Race tracks are incredibly abundant in Europe and parts of Asia, ovals abundantly dot the countryside of the United States, but head above the 49th parallel and the story is completely different.
A group which called itself the Rockyview Motorsports Corporation, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada purchased 640 acres of land just northeast of Airdrie and began designing a track in 2012. This was in response to the closure of one of Western Canada’s last big motorsports parks, Race City, also in Calgary in October of 2011.
Rockyview Motorsports Park (RMP) was proposed to be a 5.3 km road course, utilizing the idea of a motorsport resort, including Karting facilities, a safe driving training centre and a number of condos and garages. The land is located just northeast of Airdrie, Alberta, about 40 km from Calgary.
While the track would be up to spec to host IMSA racing, the plans did not make mention of any major motor races to be on tap for the facility, and that it would be for local community groups and membership.
No go for RMP
Now, almost three years later, Rocky View County that the land was purchased in has voted down the development application, giving the following statement to the public after a 12-hour hearing and debate between supporters and those who oppose the project that ended up in the less favourable of decisions for racers in Western Canada.
"Rocky View County values agricultural land as an important part of the economic and social fabric of the municipality. The County subjects ranch and farm land to the same careful planning and development considerations as any other land use type."
In the end, it came down to the surrounding farming families coming together to bring up noise, pollution and the destruction of arable land for the region as its reasons to be against the development.
Landowners sound off
Local landowner Peter Steele, who is about 3 km from the track said he felt the project was "blowing smoke" with the plans for RMP to the County.
"A Motorsport park is a good thing, if it's in the right location," said Steele.
"The other stuff they are expounding about with safety, I have no idea how driving down a racetrack is any safer than on the highway."
"The biggest problem we have is that it is using up good farmland. People forget they need to eat. The food on your table doesn't come from the sky, it comes from the ground. We are happy to have been able to preserve our way of life."
Sad day for area racers
Supporters of the development are obviously upset with the decision.
“I feel deflated,” said Calgary motorcycle track day company owner and operator Rob Darlington, who currently drives about 3-hours North to another facility to run his business multiple times each year.
“This is a passion for us, we certainly understand the property owners don’t want it in their backyard, but we understand it has to be in somebodies back yard, but so does the soccer dome, the hockey arena and the golf course. One of the comments that was made was that this is a very lazy sport, the vehicle does all the work, and you are just in it. It's very deflating when you get feedback like that. We train just as hard, if not harder and just as intensely as the hockey player or soccer player. We devote more time than just throwing your gear in the back and leaving work early.”
Damon Ockey, a competitor in the Ferrari Challenge and business owner from Calgary admits that while Calgary is not a huge racing city itself, it houses some of the worst drivers and building the safety facilities into their application appeared to be a priority for RMP.
“The residents really tried to play down the safety aspect,” said Ockey. “If you looked at the plan and the area they allocated, they allocated a big chunk of that space to driver training (facilities).”
“I think that the information that the local residents had about these sports was possibly not right.”
Ockey said that while he is not directly involved with RMP he does not believe they have a backup plan for another facility.
From a business standpoint, Darlington added that the economic impact for the region is not the only thing that will suffer from this decision.
“From a sustainability angle, what it does in my opinion is it limits our expansion (as a company), and our ability to provide to the local community,” he said.
“We have expanded from 4 to 7 events in Edmonton, but had RMP been given the OK, that would have been a 5-fold expansion. To us, that is a huge business development hurdle.”