It might have been forced to take on a new name, and within two years will be forced from its home, but even stripped of those two items the 66 year-old race track that until recently was known as Western Speedway appears to have a renewed sense of purpose.
While Western Promotions, the company that operates the track, is preparing for a summer racing season, including changing its signage and promotion materials to reflect the legally required new name – Westshore Speedway — the company is involved in finding a new site.
The existing structure and track will be decommissioned starting in the fall of 2022 when the new owners of the property intend to start redeveloping the 81-acre site.
Bastion Development Corporation and Strand Holdings, which bought the Western Speedway lands from the Wille family, is working on a proposal to establish a mixed-use project that could include a film studio, residential component, hotel and business park.
From the start the partnership committed to allow racing to continue until the fall of 2022 and has offered $2.5 million to help find a new spot to rebuild the race course.
While he admits he is disappointed the speedway will be moving, Darrell Midgley, owner of Western Promotions, said he is excited at the prospect of creating a new home for auto racing on the Island.
“Western Speedway was in operation for more than 60 years and if we can secure a new site that will be available for the next 100 well that would be incredible,” he said. “There’s definitely a need for it.”
Midgley said there is little he can say about where the new site will be or what it is likely to feature, though he did suggest it’s most likely only to be a 15-minute drive from the current location.
He suggested it will be a multi-purpose facility with other attractions.
Midgley said several parties are already involved and working diligently on the project, and $2.5 million is a fraction of what will be required to make it happen.
“It will be a sad day when it’s levelled, but the main thing is to keep the facility going,” he said, noting it’s still used by several car clubs, drag racers, drift cars as well as auto racers. “It serves quite a purpose in the community.”
The grounds do as well.
Though the batting cages and go-karts have been taken down, there will still be a swap-and-shop on the grounds on Sundays later this spring and they hope to get to the start line for some of the racing schedule.
Last year, the pandemic limited the speedway to one race with no fans.
Midgley hopes as the vaccine program hits its stride in the summer they may be able to open more fully.
He’s less enthusiastic about the new name.
“That certainly wasn’t by choice,” he said, noting it was a legal requirement of the new owners. “I think it’s hurtful to the whole racing community and to the community at large, but it’s a battle I can’t afford to fight with them. You have to pick your battles.”
Midgley has chosen instead to focus on ensuring there will be a place to rev engines for decades to come.