A racetrack in White City that could attract national-level competitions has long been the dream of many Jackson County residents, including at least one county commissioner.
The idea has languished for years, but got new life last week when the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a $191,980 contract with MIG Inc. of Eugene to flesh out the Jackson County Sports Park master plan.
Commissioner Jack Walker said he hopes the study will help attract investors who might want to build a top-level track, similar to the Infineon Raceway road course, formerly known as Sears Point, near Sonoma, Calif. A road course has multiple turns — 10 per lap at Infineon — as opposed to the two long turns at an oval track.
"This could draw people from Portland or as far away as the Bay Area," Walker said.
The county sports park currently has an oval dirt track, a drag strip and a go-kart track.
Walker, a race-car enthusiast, said one of the reasons he first ran for commissioner in 1994 was to develop the sports park into a moneymaking venture for the county.
"The possibility of what that could generate for the county and for the White City community is tremendous," he said.
Any investor would lease the land from Jackson County, resulting in an increase in property taxes on the facility.
Walker said that in previous years, a rough estimate of the length of the racetrack was more than two miles.
A master plan was in the works before, but Walker said it was bogged down by "no-growth advocates."
John Skinner, who runs the oval track, said he was a little surprised the county is going to do another master plan. He said he invested $1.5 million to build his track, which was completed in 1996.
Skinner said his only concern with the idea is that another person would lease the sports park, then lease the oval track back to him.
"I might end up with a new boss," he said. "It would be somebody else I would have to pay."
Despite that reservation, he said the idea of a top-end racetrack isn't a bad one. "I wasn't so high on the road course thing," he said. "But I'm way into it now."
In other communities, these racetracks have been extremely popular, Skinner said.
He said the racetracks often are loaded with amenities, similar to golf courses or clubs. Some high-end racetracks even include driving schools that teach people how to handle a high-performance vehicle like the professionals.
Garages and other facilities would be required for drivers and their crews. Other services would be needed for fans, including nearby hotel accommodations.
"It would be neat to have the full deal here," said Skinner.
Reach Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.