Spokane Journal of Business

Super Oval promoter abruptly cancels season

Road course, drag strip unaffected by closure

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A few weeks after expressing optimism that he might turn a profit this year, the promoter of the half-mile oval racetrack at Spokane County Raceway has raised the black flag on the season.

On April 30, Rick Nelson, owner of Spokane Super Oval LLC, announced its immediate closure.

“At this time, I need to focus energy and resources in other areas,” Nelson posted on the Spokane Super Oval’s Facebook page.

As of press time, Nelson declined immediate comment regarding the closure.

In a story published in the April 12 issue of the Journal, Nelson said he had spent $700,000 of his own money on the track in the last four years, although he expected to be profitable this year, capitalizing on growing entertainment-related developments in Airway Heights.

He said he had relied on revenue from his main business, Spokane Valley-based custom manufactured home builder Park Model Homes Inc., to supplement the cost of oval track operations.

The Super Oval is one of three tracks at the Spokane County Raceway complex.

Events scheduled at the other tracks, a quarter-mile drag strip and a 2.3-mile road course, aren’t affected by the Super Oval shut down.

A separate company, Raceway Investments LLC, leases the Spokane County Raceway complex from the county for $32,500 annually plus leasehold excise tax, currently an additional $4,200. The company had agreed to rent the oval track to Super Oval LLC on 26 Saturday dates this year, says Craig Smith, general operations manager for Raceway Investments. 

Smith says the closure of Super Oval LLC is “devastating” to this year’s overall operations at the raceway.

“Rick spent a lot of his own money on the track,” Smith says, adding that apparently, his efforts weren’t enough to please some racers.

“He told me social media was the final straw. He just said, ‘I’ve had enough.’”

Smith says he doesn’t blame Nelson for his decision to walk away.

“I can’t say anything negative about the way Rick handled it. I think anyone else would have walked out,” Smith says. “He didn’t get support on the racers’ side or the spectators’ side.”

Still, Smith says the cancellation of the Super Oval schedule is a huge blow for Raceway Investments.

“The oval track was always positive cash flow (for Raceway Investments), because it was just a rental,” he says. “I don’t have anything to do with oval track racing.”

Looking forward, he says Raceway Investments has the option to continue operating Spokane County Raceway for several years.

“We’re negotiating with the county for ideas on how the racetrack can stay with the community. They have a lot of good ideas, too,” Smith says of the county.

Meantime, the oval track, which is one of few such tracks remaining in the Pacific Northwest, is available for rent, he says.

“Anyone who wants to put on their own events can rent the track,” Smith says.

Spokane County purchased the complex, originally named Spokane Raceway Park, and adjoining land totaling 314 acres for $4.3 million in 2008.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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