By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Top-notch world-class racing could soon be synonymous with Lethbridge County and the City of Lethbridge.
Lethbridge County has been approached by Robert Furukawa, a local realtor and his client Mike Treherne, in regards to the prospect of building a motorsports and multi-use facility in the county, located near the current Bridge County Raceway — off of Highway 4 South and on Highway 845 at the Raymond turnoff.
According to a recent report submitted to county council Apr. 2, the land has already been secured with this business scenario in mind. The landowner was also present at the council meeting. The report stated, if the motorsports facility was to proceed, the next steps would involve a subdivision and development permit application process for rezoning.
Furukawa said, during his presentation to county council, there are six divisions in the racing community throughout North America and the proposed facility would be a part of Division Six, which also includes Canadian raceways in Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and in Mission, B.C.
According to the realtor, the proposed local facility would be similar to Route 66, located just outside of Chicago. The U.S. facility’s capacity is between 30-35,000 spectator seating.
Treherne added during his presentation — in the future, the Lethbridge County-based facility would be a three-quarter mile oval or a cookie-cutter racetrack.
“On count of the racers don’t want to race on unfamiliar ground. We sort of have to conform a little bit with NASCAR or NHRA in the U.S. coming up here,” said Treherne, with a focal point on the bigger tours.
“We’re here for the local tours but we’re planning on holding, through the entertainment and racing sector and the oval sector, somewhere in the seven shows per year during the dry season. And of course winter activities that we can fulfill. We’re thinking that the facility can really accommodate probably about 11 months of the year — that it will be able to hold one major event every month,” said Treherne, which would extend not only to racing but would include live concert events and extreme sports.
A facility of this nature would bring in fans from across the globe and from an economic development perspective, the facility could generate a lot of cash throughout the county and City of Lethbridge and could provide local jobs.
“Based on what Alberta is going through at this time, it’s a good time to enhance this project, as far as employment. We plan on employing up to 3,000 people to get this project up and lifted within the next couple of years and then employing up to 600 people per month in the general area, that will have full-time jobs working out of our facility. Then of course the growth that it brings. Being the top spectator sport in North America — people tend to flock to where they can play,” said Treherne, who has been involved with NASCAR and NHRA for years.
Going back to the use of the facility, Furukawa noted, the Route 66 facility also makes snow to stage sno-cross events. “It could be a winter-use facility also,” he added.
Local award-winning promoter Ron Sakamoto would also be involved with the entertainment-side of things, Furukawa said.
Councillors asked the delegates about the raceway located in Medicine Hat. Treherne explained the raceway there is more for local racers.
“The cars that we’re wanting to bring is obviously the big series that bring the population here to watch the event. We would have top fuel, 10,000 horse-power dragsters and 6,000 horse-power funny cars and jet cars. Actually, our projection, is in our drawings our track will be quite a bit longer than anybody else in North America because we’re going to actually have full quarter-mile racing.” NHRA, he said, is very excited about that.
NHRA, Treherne explained, has only specific tracks and the Lethbridge area would be added to the loop. “We’re very excited about us having a staged area here in Alberta for Division Six, which we would be in,” he said.
Treherne believes Alberta really needs a facility of this nature and it would enhance other areas of the county and City of Lethbridge, with a plethora of fans and race teams visiting southern Alberta.
“With the build of the airport and the enhancement out there, because they have to fly directly in, we can grow that airport a bit and get some motels out there,” Treherne added.
One factor of the proposal Treherne wanted to make clear was he isn’t asking for any money.
“We’re completely independently funded,” he noted. “We’re not looking for any type of compensation from the county, the city or the province.”
Aside from racing, Treherne said, he’s also been in discussions with companies such as Tesla, who might be willing to come to the area to use the proposed facility.
“To showcase their talents with their electric cars and move into the future. We kind of want to build on that.”
Treherne wants to bring new business into Alberta and if the project can soon start breaking ground — a major event, he said, could be held as early as next spring.
Financially, he noted, the project is ready to go ahead with major promoters and tours ready to come to Canada.
“Everybody loves to come to Canada. We’ve got a great place to come to,” he noted, as councillors agreed.
“We need to do this — it’s important for the province,” said Treherne.
“The west needs to bust this oil chain. We need to get something done to get this province back on track.”
Council passed the motion to accept the presentation as information and urged the delegation to submit an application for rezoning, as soon as possible.