Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race fans rally at City Hall to save Kansas City International Raceway

KC International Raceway supporters rally downtown.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 6:00 AM

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Fans of Kansas City International Raceway on Noland Road are none too pleased with the city's plans to buy the course and turn it into a park. Around three dozen track supporters stood in the rain on the steps of City Hall Monday evening to publicly denounce the plan, which they say will deprive them of their passion.

Track supporters say the city and a few politically connected residents of the area have been trying to get the track shut down for years, and it looks like they've finally succeeded. The neighbors' main complaint: The track is loud. "They believe it diminishes property values, and it’s loud and it’s noisy, and it constitutes a nuisance," said attorney Mark Epstein, who hasn't been hired by the group KCIR supporters but is advising them.

But even revving engines and squealing tires aren't valid complaints, KCIR supporters say. The track, which opened in 1967, has been in the sparsely populated neighborhood near Raytown longer than most of the residents.

“You don’t get to move next to a pig farm and then complain about the smell," Epstein said.

The sale, Epstein said, is a de facto condemnation, following years of increasing restrictions on racers and escalating code enforcement.

"It’s my understanding that the property was threatened to be condemned if they didn’t sell. So that begs the question of whether this was truly voluntary," Epstein said.

Without the city hounding them, he said, the track would likely remain open.

Track manager Todd Bridges told the crowd that there's nothing wrong with parks, but there is room in Kansas City for parks and the raceway. Families that participate in more mainstream recreation like soccer, football and tennis will benefit from a park at the expense of auto racing. "They’re allowed to pursue their passion, and that’s what we would like the opportunity to do," Bridges said.

Despite the outpouring of support Monday night, there was a sense among the KCIR faithful that this was a fight City Hall was going to win.

"Knowing who is behind it, on the other side of it, [their chances] are probably pretty slim. But we got to keep our hope up," said Perry Clark of Blue Springs, while smoking a cigarette huddled under an umbrella.

Clark's friend John Richardson had the same sense.

"The first time I went out to that track, I was probably 11 or 12 years old. My uncle took me out there. I seen the cars and stuff and fell in love with it," Richardson said. He believes the move to close the track is the result of political deal making. "It’s nothing but old-fashioned cronyism," he said, noting the land is near the Little Blue River, and an odd choice to build a park. “Last I knew that was all flood plain property," he said. "Why would the city want to spend all this money on a park that’s in a flood plain?”


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