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Fair Board Delays Race Track Decision to January

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By Lucky Kidd

 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Kansas State Fair Board has delayed a final decision on the fate of the Fairgrounds race track until their January 9th meeting. During a special meeting Tuesday evening with an audience that overflowed the Administration Building board room, an ad hoc group was established to review options.

Prior to their decision, the board heard from race driver and Larned Mayor William Nusser, a leader in efforts to save the historic track and State Representative Paul Waggoner (R-Hutchinson), in whose district the fairgrounds is located. Nusser said track supporters’ main request is to allow the track to remain in place while the various options are looked at and a master plan is developed.

“I think that’s pretty logical,” Nusser told the Board. “We’re not asking for millions of dollars in improvements in the facility.” 

In his remarks, Waggoner noted the strong interest shown in keeping the track, evidenced by the attendance at a Fair Board meeting Nov. 14, and the many good ideas that were brought up at that time, in asking the board to take another look at their vote a year ago to take out the track.

He also brought up the financial aspects of track operation, questioning whether it would be cost effective to remove the track.

“I would defy anyone to make a business case to support something that, even by certain figures, is losing $6,000 a year, but you’re going to spend $300,000 to save $6,000,” Waggoner told the Board, citing one estimate to take out the track.

After Fair Board vice president Bob Atkisson of Stockton made the motion to delay any action for now, discussion ensued on formation of an ad hoc group to look at the track and various options including proposals presented last week. Board members were unanimously supportive of the forming the group.

The group will be chaired by Fair Board at-large member Dylan Evans of Lebo, and will include Atkisson, Board members John Lewis of Lawrence and Kayla Savage (representing the Kansas Department of Commerce as the designee of the Secretary of Commerce), Nusser, a representative from the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, an at large representative from the city of Hutchinson who could be either Mayor Jon Richardson or Vice Mayor Greg Fast, and Phil Nightengale with Mel Hambleton Ford in Wichita, which submitted a detailed proposal on the track.

One of the immediate things that will need to be looked at is a legal question as to whether what is being proposed would be subject to having a formal request for proposals issued through the Kansas Department of Administration. The Fair’s legal counsel from the Attorney General’s Office hasn’t been able to get a straight answer on that point.

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