I recently had the chance to work at Heartland Park Topeka for the weekend when the NHRA tour rolled through town. I was struck by several things at the track. The first was the sheer size of the place. It is in the top three of the “most expansive” tracks I have ever visited and virtually requires a golf cart if you want to travel around and chat without taking up 6-8 hours of your day in strolling time. Then again, given the incredible size of the place maybe birds with notes tied to their legs wold be the ticket to speedy communication. We bring all of this up because a news story recently surfaced suggesting that the city of Topeka is proposing to buy the property from current operator and run the track themselves (or sub contract someone else to actually manage the place.)
The second major thing I noticed was that the place was nice but getting shabby. It is going to requires some paint, elbow grease, and a dedicated/enthusiastic operator who understands what the place needs to be back on the map as a world class strip. One obstacle no operator will be able to easily overcome is the previously mentioned sprawling nature of the joint. It is about a half mile walk to the pits from some spectators which may not actually be the longest stroll one would have to sake to see the action that so many fans love to watch intently.
We’re not sure why this deal came about or how it came about but the fact is that it looks as though the city will be taking control of the facility. Here’s to hoping that they know what they are getting into, that they hire a competent manager to take the reigns and steer the place, and that they provide enough funding for upkeep and improvements to continue. Here’s to hoping that they DO NOT eff up any of the three basic elements of the place’s future. Has a city ever successfully operated a race track before? Most seem to have trouble operating a budget let alone a track. We’ll keep you posted on this interesting and fresh story –