Fans, drivers say they'll miss Raceway Park, cling to hope of relocation

  • Article by: SETH ROWE , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2013 - 9:51 AM

Fans and drivers are clinging to the hope that Raceway Park’s owner will find a way to relocate the track, which is closing at the end of the season.

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Brothers Dylan, 9, left, and Mason Raaen, 7, of New Prague cheered on the drivers during the “Pack the Stands” event at Raceway Park in Shakopee.

Photo: Photos by ANNA REED • anna.reed@startribune.com,

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Drivers and fans of Raceway Park in Shakopee hope the short-track venue will make a comeback in a new location, but some worry that such an effort could be a long shot.

Shakopee city officials said they have had no contact with owner John Hellendrung about a potential new site and said options in the area are limited.

After the last races, set for Labor Day weekend, are completed, Recovery Technology Solutions plans to begin building an asphalt recycling plant on the track site along Hwy. 101 near Valleyfair.

“I think under current conditions they probably would have to look a bit to find a suitable site, but I’m not sure what their interest is in that,” said Michael Leek, Shakopee’s community development director.

Hellendrung did not return calls seeking comment on his plans but has said that economic conditions are behind his decision to sell the track.

Driver Matt Stanley of Shakopee and others said the Raceway Park owner has discussed the idea of replacing the track.

“He’s on step seven of 200 of trying to get something else lined up,” Stanley said.

Stanley’s team, Stanley Racing 13, helped organize an Aug. 4 “Pack the Stands” effort to top the track’s record race-day attendance of 3,200 set in 1971. Organizers came close, with unofficial numbers topping 3,000, Stanley said.

The fans and drivers behind Pack the Stands sought to ­create a bit of history as well as demonstrate that Minnesotans still have an interest in racing, Stanley said.

While pleased with the turnout, Stanley acknowledged that building a new Raceway Park would be an uphill climb.

“I’m optimistic they’re going to try something, but I think with all the zoning and costs and everything else, I don’t see that it’s real feasible,” Stanley said. “It’d definitely be nice, but I don’t see it happening.”

Shakopee is unusual in that it formerly contained a large “racetrack district” that over time became a smaller Major Recreation Zone, Leek said. With the City Council approving a land-use change at Raceway Park, the zone now mainly applies only to Canterbury Park and Valleyfair.

Leek said the council could change the zoning elsewhere in the city but pointed out that the Mdewakanton Sioux Community has a say regarding about 1,500 acres in Shakopee.

“Anything that happens there would have to be initiated with them, and I don’t think they have in mind a racetrack facility,” Leek said.

He said building west of the city in Louisville Township and Jackson Township could potentially be an option.

Longtime driver Jeremy Wolff of Chaska welcomed the rebuilding idea. “I hope they can find a way to keep a short track around this area so that we all have a place to play,” he said. “It’s my playground, and you know how kids get when they close down a playground.”

Wolff’s son, Joshua Wolff, also has raced at the track.

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  • Fans watch the races during the "Pack the Stands" event at Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn., on Sunday, August 4, 2013. ] (ANNA REED/STAR TRIBUNE) anna.reed@startribune.com (cq)

  • The inside of one of the race cars had been modified to make its operation super-simple: Off, On and Start.

  • Pit crew members relaxed on the roof of a van. The scene was reminiscent of the rooftops at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field.

  • Jay Barta, right, of Burnsville and his father, Dennis Barta of Richfield, worked on their race car in the Raceway Park pit area.

  • Racers raised dust and headed to the track during the “Pack the Stands” event at Raceway Park in Shakopee on Aug. 4.

  • Left:  About 3,000 race fans came for “Pack the Stands” day.

  • Above:  Jessica Ziemiecki, 9, of Corcoran played with her toy cars while waiting for the real racing to begin.

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