Heartland Park racetrack town hall meeting leaves many Topekans divided

TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Topeka City Council held the first of two town hall meetings Tuesday night on Heartland Park racetrack at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The city’s purchase of the track, has left some community members concerned about the future of the financially troubled racetrack.

At Tuesday’s meeting, more than 60 Topeka residents were in attendance, and voiced their frustration with what some are calling a nightmare of a racetrack.

Several community members let it be known that they opposed the city’s plan to move forward with the track.

“We have enough white elephants in the city of Topeka as it is,” said Helen Simmons.

Simmons, says she’s lived in Topeka for years, and the city has enough projects it needs to complete and improve on.

Others in support traveled from all over Northeast Kansas just to speak to the council about the track. Some went as far as begging the city to issue the $5-million in Sales Taxes Revenue Bonds, and re-open the track for the summer.

“Yeah, maybe it hasn’t been terrible successful, but we are bringing money,” said Kraig Bailey, a race car fan from Emporia. “Most of the people who come out here and race aren’t from Topeka. They are people from the surrounding area.”

Local residents had a different story to tell at Tuesday’s meeting. They blame the city for covering up for the track’s previous operator, Jayhawk Racing. Blaming racing company for the financial state the track is currently in.

“Why wasn’t the city out there forcing him to do what he was supposed to do with the tax’s money,” stated one community member.

But City Manager Jim Colson says, Jayhawk Racing is a thing of the past, and they are looking to the future with the new potential operator Chris Payne owner of Shelby LLC.

Payne’s attorney told those in attendance, that Payne is not going to focus personally on managing the track, if he gets the contract he’ll hire a team to do that. He says his focus will be in attracting new businesses around the track to make it viable all year round.

“Mr. Payne wants to work on that area to attract businesses,” said Wes Carrillo, Payne’s attorney. “It has set without redevelopment for a long period of time. You have a whole space of land that is really un-utilized and filled with grass and crops.”

The Topeka City Council will hold a second meeting Wednesday April 29th, at 11 a.m., at the city’s Holliday Building.



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