The former Southside Speedway site is included in Chesterfield's plan for enhancing the Genito Road/Route 288 corridor.
With concurrence from the Board of Supervisors, the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) has hired a longtime motorsports consultant to analyze the current state of Southside Speedway’s facilities and determine what level of investment would be needed to make it viable as a racing venue.
Martyn Thake, principal of Tucson, Arizona-based Motorsports Consulting Services (MCS), is expected to present his findings to the Board of Supervisors at its Nov. 16 meeting.
Thake has more than 40 years of professional motorsports experience and has performed hundreds of track inspections, designs and redesigns for Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
His vast experience ranges from event promoter to insurance and risk management inspector, as well as a facility and track designer. He was a member of the CART/IndyCar Safety Team and spent five years as the CEO of a race car manufacturer.
Southside Speedway hosted stock-car racing for more than 60 years at its Genito Road location before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of its 2020 racing schedule.
At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, Chesterfield’s EDA purchased the 47-acre property in June 2021 – about six months after its owners announced they had decided to permanently close the 1/3-mile track.
By acquiring the Southside Speedway site, Chesterfield leaders see an opportunity to attract development that complements River City Sportsplex, a 115-acre county-owned athletic facility at the intersection of Genito Road and Route 288.
Despite the pandemic, Chesterfield hosted 48 sports tourism events in fiscal year 2021, attracting more than 180,000 visitors and generating an estimated impact of $32.2 million to the local economy. Most of that activity resulted directly from youth sports tournaments held on the synthetic turf fields at River City Sportsplex.
As part of the bond referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Tuesday’s general election, Chesterfield has budgeted $17.2 million for capital improvements to the facility: construction of four more lighted turf fields (for a total of 16); additional parking; a large destination play area with a splash pad and a universal playground that can accommodate both disabled and able-bodied children; a picnic area, fitness circuit and trail system. Also included will be two restrooms, shade structures at the fields and other amenities for participants and spectators.
Those projects are intended to enhance the visitor and user experience, increase the facility’s attractiveness as a tournament site and provide additional recreation opportunities for Chesterfield residents.
Likewise, county leaders contend that having complementary development -- restaurants, entertainment, shopping and lodging -- within close proximity to River City Sportsplex will keep a greater percentage of visitors spending money in Chesterfield after exiting the facility.
As a guide for future development around the sportsplex, Chesterfield’s Planning Department crafted the Genito/288 Special Focus Area Plan and presented a series of draft recommendations from the document at a community meeting in July.
The draft concept plan for the Genito/288 special focus area recommends a hotel site, restaurants and a brewery, destination retail and community green space adjacent to River City Sportsplex.
It also calls for unspecified entertainment/sport/recreation uses on the former Southside Speedway site, as well as community commercial and sports/wellness/office uses on EDA-owned property south of Genito Road.
There will be a public hearing on the Genito/288 Special Focus Area Plan at the Nov. 16 Board of Supervisors meeting, after which the board is expected to vote whether to adopt the document as part of Chesterfield’s comprehensive plan.
County leaders have not closed the door on the eventual resumption of auto racing at Southside Speedway. In fact, the EDA’s purchase of the site is the only reason that possibility even exists; its prior owners originally had planned to sell the property to an apartment developer.
Over the past 17 months, members of the Board of Supervisors and county administration have heard from many people who want to reopen Southside Speedway. The EDA received one unsolicited proposal from an entity interested in renovating and operating the racetrack, but it was mutually determined that it could not do so in a sustainable manner at this time because of capital and financing costs.
Meanwhile, Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow, chair of the Board of Supervisors, also has made site visits to Langley Speedway in Hampton and Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Through conversations with track officials and others, he gained a deeper understanding of those facilities’ operational and financial realities.
As Chesterfield prepares to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for development of the EDA-owned property near River City Sportsplex, Motorsports Consulting Services’ analysis will provide an expert’s perspective on the future of Southside Speedway.
"We’ve taken the time to understand what other localities have done to keep facilities viable from a participant perspective. Now we’re doing our due diligence and considering what we can do with our racetrack,” Winslow said. “The consultant we’ve hired is part of that effort.”