Calgary’s car enthusiasts have been without a home since Race City closed its doors in December 2011. Dominic Young, a retired financial advisor, is hoping to change that with a new racetrack that critics say may be overpriced. However, Young and his supporters say the costs are well-thought-out and will help support motorsports in the city.
Late last month, Young and his team broke ground on the $35 million project and they are aiming to have engines roaring and tires squealing by summer 2021.
Young spent more than thirty years working as an accountant and a financial advisor before retiring in 2011. The next year he started Rocky Mountain Motorsports, a motorsports and real estate venture located near Carstairs, Alta., roughly 30 minutes north of Calgary.
“I’m not really a big racer, but I am a car enthusiast, and that’s really how I got involved. I was also at a stage in my career where I was pushing retirement, and so this seemed like an opportune thing to do.”
Calgary has been without a track for almost nine years. That’s when Race City’s lease on city land expired.
The track, which allowed local gear heads to drag race their cars for $25 at its Friday night Secret Street events, was initially slated to close in 2009. The city extended the lease in February 2010. But that two-year extension came to an end so the city could expand the nearby Shepard Sanitary Landfill.
Young says that Calgary stands out by not having a track.
“If you look at most major cities, there’s some form of a track that is within a reasonable distance. Race City was in an awkward situation, being on leased land from the city. When the city indicated they were not going to be renewing the lease, there was a gap in the market.”
So Young took the opportunity upon himself. He took this gap and filled it by creating his new business, Rocky Mountain Motorsports.
One concern that arises for the new track is affordability. Rocky Mountain Motorsports Park will operate primarily on a country club-style membership.
An entry-level membership will cost $41,000, however, the website notes that the price may rise after construction has finished. On top of this, there will be annual dues set by the board of directors. By comparison, Castrol Raceway in Edmonton operates on an event-by-event basis, where they host several events per month, with the Track Junkie performance driving program having a fixed cost of $295 per event.
Justin Chan, a member of a Calgary-based car club called Team Revere, says Rocky Mountain Motorsports’ comparative expense is a concern for some automotive enthusiasts.
“What usually gets talked about is the cost. There are a lot of people who haven’t been doing their research and actually looking at the breakdown of what memberships will cost and if these tracks will even be open to non-members.”
Eric Grochowski, president of the Calgary Sports Car Club, hopes that the track will not be limited to high-end clientele.
“When I first started racing, I was able to pay $40 an event to go out and take a daily driver vehicle at a slow speed parking lot event, then get started in the sport. Had I not done that, I wouldn’t have gone on to win Canadian championships in Rally. So you have to have those feeder series. And I think that these tracks recognize that,” says Grochowski, an accomplished racer.
Young says issues around the cost have been looked at and the prices are within reason while still allowing non-members access.
“If we had a $10,000 membership, we would need to sell 1,500 or more to achieve our capital plan. Having 300+ members who are able to afford the membership means that a facility will get built and be accessible to non-members,” says Young.
About 50 per cent of the track time will be dedicated to membership holders, and the rest of the time will be available for rental by clubs, racing schools and other groups Young says. This is a cheaper way to access the facilities for those who are interested.
Young says, “If a club were to bring out 60 people for a track rental day, the cost would likely be in the $200 range per person.”
Chan says that while the initial cost is daunting, it comes down to passion.
“I kind of think about it in the sense that golf memberships are really expensive. The Winter Club is also really expensive. So when you kind of factor in what we’re doing, it makes sense.”