Memphis Motorsports Park Sells for $1.9M

By Sarah Baker

After being vacant for more than a year, Memphis Motorsports Park sold at a live auction Tuesday morning for slightly less than $1.9 million.

Independent investor Joe Lubeck placed the highest bid for the tract – $1.875 million – after the bidding opened at $3 million. Lubeck is managing partner of Jupiter, Fla.-based Palm Beach International Raceway, formerly Moroso Motorsports Park. Jason Rittenburry, Lubeck’s partner, ran the track for 11 years.

The bidding took place onsite at one of the facility’s parcels, 5500 Victory Lane, near Millington. The property’s two tracts were sold as a whole after Morris Auction Group LLC had publicized it could be sold as separate tracts or together.

The multi-track complex includes a 0.75-mile asphalt oval, a 0.25-mile championship drag strip and a 1.77-mile road course.

The auction drew a big crowd but only a few serious bidders. After no bids at the opening price, Morris Auction Group quickly dropped the price to $2 million and then $1.5 million.

“Guys, we’re really below value here,” said Morris Auction Group owner and namesake Jeff Morris, after little interest appeared in the room. “This is for the whole thing.”

In April, Andy Cates and Preston Thomas of Colliers International listed Memphis Motorsports Park for $6 million, a price “substantially below value,” according to the website created by the commercial real estate firm to sell the property.

A 10 percent buyer’s premium was added to Lubeck’s bid, bringing the total to $2,062,500. The closing will be within the next 30 days at the law offices of Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC.

The real estate sold within less than 10 minutes of the auction’s open. The personal property was then sold individually, including everything from tractors to kitchen equipment.

In all likelihood, the property will remain a motorsports park.

“That’s the highest and best use for the property,” said Morris. “This is unique to this piece of property to have a fan base as strong at the Memphis Motorsports Park. There’s been a lot of excitement and nervousness by the fans.”

The park opened in 1987, and is the former site of more than 150 annual events including NASCAR and NHRA races. A group of local investors originally developed the property as a drag strip with an adjacent road course, a dirt track and a go-kart track.

Memphis Motorsports Park was acquired by the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach in 1996, and a three-quarter-mile paved oval was built on the site of the dirt track.

In 1997, Dover Motorsports Inc. bought the park in connection with its purchase of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. The property has been owned and managed by Memphis International Motorsports Corp., an affiliate of Dover.

Dover ended its 11-year run with Memphis Motorsports Park in October 2009. Prior to closing, Dover had an agreement to sell the park to Gulf Coast Entertainment for $10 million, but Gulf Coast was unable to secure financing.

Dover, Del.-based Dover Motorsports is also the parent company that owns Dover International Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway and Gateway International Speedway, presenting more than 400 motorsports events annually.

In November, Dover announced it would cease operations at Gateway International Speedway in St. Louis after its last Nationwide race in October. The track is now listed for sale.

Gary Camp, director of communications at Dover, said Memphis’ situation is similar to Gateway’s – a matter of minimizing losses.

“We’re confident that the auction is going to bring whatever the market will bare,” Camp said. “This is not a distressed sale. We’ve had tons of inquiries of late, and this (auction) is really an opportunity for everyone to come to the table.”

Tuesday’s auction comes after both the NASCAR and NHRA 2011 schedules have been released. While the NHRA has 140 member tracks, Memphis was one of only 23 to host a national event and was awarded a sanction in 1988 as the host site of the Mid-South Nationals.

“I can only imagine that it would be challenging to try to be added to their schedule at this point,” Camp said. “But the facility is in great shape, and with some minor work, both the NHRA and the Motorsports oval could be race ready.”

Many fans of the park hope the current cycle does not repeat itself, including Elaine Cartwright, who was employed there for 22 years.

“If they’re in it for the tax write off, then it’s only going to be open for another 10 years,” Cartwright said. “I just hope it gets more of a local, community support then it had in the past.”