TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With the future of Topeka’s Heartland Park racing complex still uncertain, the track’s owner said it would be responsible not to have a schedule in place for whoever takes over operation of the facility.
Raymond Irwin this week released a tentative 2015 schedule that includes the track’s showcase event, the NHRA Kansas Nationals, to be held May 22-24. It would be the 27th year at the Topeka facility for the drag-racing event.
“I think that the facility is way too important to the community and it’s way too important to the racing community as well for the activities not to occur out here,” Irwin told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “So we’ve gone ahead and put in the dates that people have requested — the traditional dates as well as certainly the NHRA event in May — and our other events.”
The future of the 27-year-old motorsports complex rests with a Kansas Court of Appeals panel that is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Feb. 26 in a lawsuit involving Irwin’s company, Jayhawk Racing, the city of Topeka and petitioner Chris Imming.
The city plans to issue $5 million in new Sales Tax Revenue bonds to buy Heartland Park and expand district boundaries to pull in enough state sales tax revenue to cover the track’s $17 million debt without turning to city property taxes.
After the city announced its intentions last year, Imming initiated a petition drive to force a citywide vote on the proposal. The city filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the petition, which a Shawnee County judge ruled was invalid.
The appeals court hearing comes two days before CoreFirst Bank & Trust is allowed to foreclose on the property in an agreement between the bank, Irwin and the city.
The city anticipates the panel will quickly issue a favorable ruling after the hearing, clearing the path for the city to issue the STAR bonds.
Topeka attorney Chad Sublet said four entities have submitted applications to manage the facility once it’s in the city’s hands.
In the meantime, Irwin said he knew people would be surprised by his decision to release a 2015 schedule, but it’s his intention to have a smooth transition.
“We have a very strong schedule and it makes no sense to me, even as we continue to negotiate with the city and other entities for the operation of the facility, not to make sure that people know that we’re going to be open,” Irwin said.
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