Friday, Nov. 17

Racetrack schedule crashes at City Hall

Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 17, 2006]  The owners of Lincoln Speedway came before the Lincoln City Council once again last week. Norm Horn and new co-owner Don Hammer came to the council before beginning the process of sorting out their new 2007 race season. The men have made several trips up to City Hall in the last few months to discuss their options.

The two-year-old track is still trying to find its place in the competition for racers and a supporting fan base.

The track had Sunday night racing the first year and changed to Saturday night last season. The change did not fare well for the business. Fan attendance fell off. Hammer said, "I would like to, but I can't afford to run just Saturdays. Saturday nights lost money last year."

The businessmen asked to be able to choose between Saturday or Sunday nights in accordance with decisions made by other competing tracks for the coming year.

The track generated a lot of complaints about the noise in its first year of operation. What remains as the main issue of those complaints is the lateness of the hour that the noise would stop if the races were to take place on a Sunday night or if there were a special event during the week.

Aldermen discussed the days and hours that they thought might be more or less tolerable to their constituents. Part of the focus was to protect hours to rest for those who work a standard week and students.

Aldermen's comments were spoken with firmness and, as one alderman later pointed out, their positions coincided with their ward's proximity to the racetrack.

Alderman Marty Neitzel opened by saying that she would support either Saturday or Sunday and one special event for the year as a special promotion during the week.

She said, "I am not a racing person; I am a person for the city of Lincoln." She acknowledged that the track noise is an inconvenience to citizens. But other people tolerate noise where they live. The airport has crop dusters flying over housing in the spring and all summer long; the LCHS band practices 7:30 a.m. to noon outside. These people accept some inconvenience, she said.

She named a number of businesses that benefit from the races: McDonald's, Rusty's, Daphne's and Dairy Queen. "What we're doing up here is for the promotion of Lincoln, Illinois," she said, "I don't want to be the last one out in Lincoln and have to shut the lights out."

Alderman Wanda Lee Rohlfs presented a different view. She said that some uptown businesses say that they lose business the night of the races.

She also said that some property-tax payers are saying that they would appreciate the council listening to them.

In the middle of the seating of aldermen and like distance from the track, Alderman Jonie Tibbs said that she has gotten as many positive calls as some other aldermen get negative calls. Callers say that it is good for business and for the families attending the races.

"Your best interests are our best interests," she said to the track owners. "It is good to have something for families to do."

She hoped to work together to set a time and make it work.

[to top of second column]

Alderman Verl Prather said that families do need something to do, but they need to be able to enjoy their backyards too.

A lengthy discussion launched about the benefits and drawbacks, comparing Saturday and Sunday, and what ending times might be possible. An early start would allow for an earlier ending.

The biggest drawback to starting earlier is that the sun is hotter and more dust would be created. There isn't actually that much dirt coming off the track, Gary Horn said. This is because they have ample water trucks now wetting the track down. However, most of the dust generated is from the surrounding horse track and streets, Horn said.

An issue of noise after the races was resolved. Horn normally grades the track immediately after the races. He said that in the future he'd come back the next day and do that work.

Alderman Melody Anderson said that she could not give free rein to what night the races could be. She noted that there weren't complaints on Saturday, but also said that she was willing to offer some flexibility with making concessions if the races would end earlier on Sundays.

Alderman Derrick Crane apologized to the track owners, saying, "We're placing restrictions on you that aren't done on other businesses."

He and Alderman Kathy Horn suggested an earlier start and stop if it were on a Sunday.

He encouraged the owners to negotiate a change in the Sunday curfew.

Prather said that it is the role of government to place restrictions on matters of quality of life. This business is different because it does affect people around the track.

Mayor Beth Davis questioned, "Is the city council  charged with regulation?" She cited that Lincoln just had three trains a day added that might bother people living near the tracks; the demolition derby added another event; and she named other new noise contributors.

The track owners asked for flexibility in choosing between days on the weekend, keeping the races at one weekend night per week, and to be able to add a few special races that would attract larger crowds.

A motion was made to permit the flexibility of scheduling for either a Saturday night or Sunday night race along with one special event for the year during the week for the coming 2007 racing season. The motion was amended to address curfew times. Saturday curfew would stay at 11 p.m., and any Sunday or special event curfew would be at 10 p.m.

The motion was denied 6-4 with Rohlfs, Prather, Huskins, Anderson, Horn and Busby voting no. Neitzel, Whittaker, Tibbs and Crane voted yes.

The mayor suggested to the track owners that they submit a new petition.

The matter will likely be brought before the council again.

[Jan Youngquist]


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor