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VOL. 124 | NO. 214 | Friday, October 30, 2009

Dover to Close Memphis Motorsports Park

By Eric Smith

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Dover Motorsports Inc., the owner of Memphis Motorsports Park, is waving the checkered flag and will end racetrack operations there, the company reported Friday.

After failing to sell the facility to Gulf Coast Entertainment for an estimated $10 million when that company couldn’t secure financing, Dover decided to shutter the park and move a pair of signature races to other cities.

The Dover, Del.-based company will move its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to Nashville and its NASCAR Nationwide Series to St. Louis, said Tim Horne, Dover’s senior vice president of finance.

Horne cited a sour economy as the primary reason for closing the track, a move that Dover’s board of directors approved this week. Not only did a proposed deal to sell the facility fall through, but ticket sales had been soft, Horne added.

“It’s no secret that attendance has been an issue – not just in Memphis, but everywhere – given the economy and its impact on the consumer,” Horne said. “Attendance is off at most sporting events, clearly in the lower-tier NASCAR events it’s been impacted also. That clearly played a role, but the economy overall probably had a bigger role. This economy is impacting everyone and it’s kind of forcing some tough decisions.”

The facility is divided into two parcels – 5500 Victory Lane and 5500 Tay-For Road – that sit on 342 acres in unincorporated Shelby County south of Millington. The properties are owned under the Memphis International Motorsports Corp., an affiliate of Dover.

About 20 employees at the facility will be impacted, Horne said. Some of them will be offered severance packages and some offered positions elsewhere within the organization.

After a couple of scheduled events are completed, the property will be shuttered and likely placed on the market. It brings to a close Dover’s 11-year ownership in the facility, in which the company made significant improvements to the track, the seating and the skyboxes.

“We’ve invested quite a bit of money out there over the last 11 years,” Horne said. “We’ll wait and see what happens, see if any potential suitors arise after this announcement that would be interested in the property as a racetrack. That may happen. But if not, we’ll probably look to sell the property at some point.”

Denis McGlynn, Dover’s president and CEO, offered the following statement in a company release announcing the closure.

“This was a difficult decision for us, but one that ultimately was dictated by economics,” McGlynn said. “We greatly appreciate the many years of dedication shown by our Memphis employees and their efforts to make Memphis such a great destination for the racing community – from racing fans and drivers to sponsors, team owners and sanctioning bodies.”

The news comes a few months after a nearby sporting venue, Big Creek Golf Course, reopened as Mirimichi Golf Course following a multimillion-dollar renovation by new owner and megastar Justin Timberlake.

That opening should more than offset the closure of Memphis Motorsports Park, said Martin Edwards, a Memphis real estate agent who formerly served as president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors.

Edwards is the developer of Thornhill Estates, a 95-acre subdivision off U.S. 51 and south of Big Creek Church Road, as well as the proposed Barret Oaks, a $40 million mixed-use senior living community at the southwest corner of Raleigh-Millington Road and the Paul Barret Parkway (Tenn. 385).

He doesn’t think the closure of the motorsports park – which he thinks is associated more with Frayser than Millington – will have a negative impact on real estate in the area because of its distance from residential areas.

“I don’t think it affects us in any form or fashion,” Edwards said. “With Mirimichi doing what it’s doing out there, that has more of an effect on us than the motorsports track closing.”

PROPERTY SALES 70 70 16,267
MORTGAGES 30 30 10,117
BUILDING PERMITS 297 297 38,841
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 7,641