Back to the drawing board: Luxemburg Speedway seeks racing promoter for 2nd straight year
LUXEMBURG – For a second straight year, Kewaunee County is seeking someone to run its race track for the coming season. This time, experience is preferred.
The county's Promotions & Recreation Department issued a "Request for Proposal," or "RFP," on Nov. 19 to find a promoter for Luxemburg Speedway, the one-third-mile clay oval on the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds.
Skyhigh Entertainment, LLC, the promoter in 2019, is not returning to operate the track next year. Skyhigh is owned by over-the-road truck owner-operator Ashley Stevens of Kiel, a fan and former occasional racer who never promoted races or any other events before this and formed the LLC specifically to run this speedway.
Skyhigh won the contract for 2019 mainly because it was the only group to apply for the job, and that came about after no one submitted a response to the initial RFP issued by the county in October 2018. Stevens heard about that and approached the county, and the County Board voted its approval at its Jan 22 meeting.
As a first-time promoter, Stevens hoped new approaches to promoting and advertising races would result in increased attendance, such as craft and vendor shows and prize drawings on race nights. But the track struggled to draw both racers and fans this year.
The county expressed its preference for finding a promoter with previous racing experience, which is most often the case for race tracks, in a press release announcing the RFP.
“Ideally, we’d like to have a promoter or promoters who have experience with racing,” David Myers, Promotions & Recreation Department director, said in the release. “Running a program like this is more than just a hobby. In order for it to be successful, there needs to be a great amount of commitment and dedication.”
In an interview this week with the Star-News, Myers said a lack of experience won't disqualify an interested party, but reiterated that the county would like to work with a promoter who's been down that road before.
"It's open. All the proposals will get looked at," Myers said. "But we'd like someone who kinda knows how to run the track."
Luxemburg Speedway has run weekly stock car and modified races every year since the 1960s, except for a four-year hiatus from 1983 to 1986.
The track dodged the bullets of this past summer's weather, with only one race night rained out; the 2018 promoters, Eric Mahlik and Ron Cochrane, saw six of their 13 planned shows and a two-night season-ending special race canceled.
But attendance at the races that did run lagged significantly this year. Stevens said in an August interview with the Star-News that weekly attendance — he estimated about 250 to 300 on average, compared to county figures between 516 and 1,207 since 2012 — was well below what he needed to break even.
Also, the late start Skyhigh got in assuming the duties made it difficult to attract racers and sign up sponsors for the races and race divisions. That affects revenue because race teams pay entry fees and for pit passes for their crew members.
Whatever the cause, Myers said for the race figures that had been reported so far, an average of about 64 teams a week towed in to compete in the track's five classes, compared to more than 100 each of the previous three years. Myers also said the weekly average of the combined number of spectators and pit passes was 464, less than the track's usual fan attendance alone.
A planned $10,000-to-win race in August for the regional Dirt Kings Late Model Tour was canceled, and Stevens had to scale back the larger-than-before payouts he told the track's regular racers they would earn before the season started.
The contract between Skyhigh and the county for 2019 called for the promoter to rent the track and associated facilities for $1,500 per race, with an 18-race season scheduled to run Friday nights from May 3 to Sept. 6 and a special season-closing race weekend Sept. 13 and 14. It was similar to contracts previous promoters signed with the county, Myers said.
Stevens declined an interview for this story, but Myers said Skyhigh is about $8,000 behind in its rent payments to the county. Myers didn't know if Skyhigh also owes money to vendors that provided goods and services to the track.
Myers acknowledged Skyhigh stepped into a tough situation.
"I gotta give them credit for trying," he said. "But the numbers were just not there last season."
Skyhigh wrote a post on the track's Facebook page the night of its end-of-season banquet, Nov. 15, in which it thanked fans, sponsors and racers who supported the track this year before announcing it would not return next year.
"Overall we feel the product on the track was very good and our loyal drivers put on a great show every week," the post reads. "Unfortunately we were not able to draw enough fans or sponsors to make the track a financial success. We will not be back for the 2020 season … It was an experience, but we've taken our checkered flag."
Myers said he expects the rent to stay the same, or similar to the $1,500 a week the county has set in recent years. The county's Parks, Promotion & Maintenance Committee will recommend one of the submitted proposals to the full County Board, which then would approve a contract with the prospective promoter.
If the same situation arises this year, with no proposals submitted by the deadline, Myers thinks the board would again extend the deadline in hope of keeping racing going at the speedway.
"Obviously, we want someone in there racing," he said.
To download a Request for Proposal form to promote motorsports at Luxemburg Speedway at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds in 2020, click on the link at kewauneeco.org. The deadline to submit a completed RFP is at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 11. For more information, call David Myers, director of the Promotions & Recreation Department for Kewaunee County, at 920-388-0444.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Back to the drawing board: Luxemburg Speedway seeks racing promoter for 2nd straight year