Madison, Ill (KSKD) -- A group of investors, led by real estate developer and former professional race car driver Curtis Francois, have reached an agreement to operate the Gateway International Raceway for the 2012 racing season.
"With the 2012 racing season fast approaching, we had to move quickly and negotiate a lease for the facility," Francois said. "We were excited to reach an agreement with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to return in October 2012 with the NHRA Midwest Nationals. This event is very important for the future viability of the track and illustrates the interest the industry has in revitalizing this wonderful entertainment venue."
Gateway International Raceway, previously owned by Dover Motorsports, Inc. out of Dover, Delaware, ceased operations in November, 2010 citing the inability to run the operations with acceptable returns. The new, local investors have plans to expand the use of the facility, and operate in a manner that will be more cost-effective for the long term.
"We are currently working with state and local governments to put together a redevelopment plan that will allow us to purchase the facility and lay a firm financial foundation for the track. We've received incredible interest and support from the racing industry, state and local officials, local businesses and racing fans," Francois said. "We are very excited about the jobs this investment can create and the overall economic impact it can have on the region."
"My staff and I have been working closely with Curtis Francois over the past few months as this deal was nearing completion, and we are excited with this great news," said Mark A. Kern, St. Clair County Board Chairman. "I've known Curtis for many years and I look forward to the reopening of the Gateway Raceway as it means so much to our region, and in particular St. Clair County. The Raceway will once again attract crowds and fans from throughout the region and country."
"I'm delighted that the Gateway International Raceway will be reopened and once again become a wonderful entertainment center for the region," said City of Madison Mayor John Hamm. "This nationally renowned facility is a breath of fresh air for the City of Madison. New operator Curtis Francois has been great to work with and every City Council Member has given me the green light to get this deal done."
About 50 full-time jobs and up to 300 part-time jobs are expected to result from the reopening of the track, and officials are optimistic about the impact this investment will have on the overall region.
Thursday, the NHRA released its 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule and the reopening of the Gateway track was highlighted as a premier event. Francois says plans are for the track to open for a full season of racing sometime in the March of 2012, and there are plans to hold some limited racing events yet this year.
"We are excited to return to the St. Louis area, as we have a very strong fan base in the region and they have always supported NHRA Drag Racing," said Tom Compton, president, NHRA.
Gateway International Raceway is a 150 acre facility located at 700 Raceway Boulevard
in the City of Madison within St. Clair County Illinois. The first racing event at Gateway was held in 1997 and the last held in 2010 under former ownership. Former General Manager Rod Wolter will serve as a consultant on this project with Francois.
As a racing industry veteran, Francois raced for several sanctioning bodies throughout the years including Grand AM, Indy Racing League, Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). He has been a residential and commercial real estate developer since 1998 concentrating primarily on the developments in the metro east.