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Race Track Supporters Propose Keeping Track to Kansas State Fair Board, Special Meeting Nov. 21 for Board to Decide and Proceed

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By Lucky Kidd

 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Supporters of keeping a race track on the Kansas State Fairgrounds turned out in force last night to tell the Kansas State Fair Board they oppose removal of the track, which the Board had voted to pursue a year ago. During the meeting in the Fairgrounds Encampment Building, two proposals were presented to keep the track.

One came from Wichita-based promoter C. Ray Hall, who for many years was a promoter of the Hutchinson Nationals.

“I feel like we can continue (as) the last couple of years,” Hall told the board, adding the Nationals are coming off a very successful last 2-3 years.

A very detailed proposal including financial impact information on the community was presented by Mel Hambleton Ford General Manager Phil Nightengale. He mentioned something that has been raised by a number of people about changing the track from its current half mile to 3/8th mile. That is something that he would look at.

“If we keep the racing going and the racers keep coming,” Nightengale said.

The current half mile track could continue to be used for now, but ultimately the shorter track will likely be desirable, as it doesn’t cause as much wear and tear on cars as the half mile oval.

Ten people addressed the Kansas State Fair Board at a meeting last night on the future of the Fairground’s race track. State Representative Paul Waggoner, who noted Hutchinson’s past history of tearing down things that should not have been, focused on the economic impact racing has on Reno County.

Waggoner cited Hutchinson-Reno County Chamber of Commerce data and pointed out the Hutchinson Nationals is one of the four largest events in bringing people to Hutchinson. It’s exceeded only by the Fair itself, the Mennonite Relief Sale also held on the Fairgrounds, and the NJCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.

Five people who signed up to speak yielded their time to race car driver and Larned Mayor William Nusser, a leader in the save the track movement who gave an extended presentation and told Ad Astra News after the meeting, “You love to see the community support, and it’s standing room only you see in the crowds, so we’re super happy about that.”

Nusser added he still believes the Fair Board can still listen to the people.

“There’s no reason to give us the axe,” Nusser said.

One of the speakers, Jamie White, gave passionate remarks in which she accused the Fair Board of violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act among other things. White said during her presentation, “If you agree with the actions of presentation of false financials to the legislators, because that’s what happened, believe me, my next soapbox will be in January, and I will be in Topeka.”

Fair Board Vice Chair Bob Atkinsson of Stockton, who presided over the meeting, told Ad Astra News it was a passionate meeting with a lot of passionate people.

“They had some information that was interesting, and we will take this under advisement and see how it comes out,” Atkinsson said.

He presided over the evening session and a State Fair Board meeting Tuesday afternoon in the absence of Board Chair Paula Landoll-Smith, who was out of state on business.

The Fair Board will make a decision on how they will proceed at a special meeting Tuesday November 21st at 5 PM in the Fairgrounds Administration Building.

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