Last week it was “officially” announced that Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania is for sale (https://dragracingedge.com/featured-news/maple-grove-raceway-for-sale/). Eight-million dollars and it can be yours. I looked through all my change drawers and I’m still $7,999,999.15 short. Anybody looking to donate? No. Okay, well it was just a thought.
And then over the weekend I hear the “rumor” the track was sold but that it will remain a drag strip. Of course, several phone calls have yet to confirm that so it probably is just “fake news.” But oh, will the rumors be flying over this. Looks like the list of potential people who will buy the place begin with Roger Penske, Don Schumacher, JEGS (wait, didn't those guys "buy" Englishtown?), Bill Bader and I even think Pink Floyd's name was thrown in there.
But the fact of the matter is like probably all drag strips, they're always for sale. Finding the right person to step up and make the purchase and spend the effort to make it work are far and few between. A year and a half ago, the track I live next door to; Beaver Springs Dragway; was sold. The previous owner had built the facility in 1971 and was probably the longest running track operator in the country along with maybe the Cathell family in Delaware. Sure, there are older tracks, but in most cases, they had hired track managers, changed owners, etc. "Beaver Bob" McCardle built and ran his track continually each year since '71. Was he tired of the struggles? Probably. But as he'd admit, the reason he sold was that he had someone offer him money. Sometimes you just have to take it. It’s a tough business. According to the Coldwell Banker website which is where the ‘Grove is listed, has a mortgage calculator of however it is calculated, but you’re looking at $32,000 a month and that’s before any expenses are taken into consideration.
Now, of course, I think most people would have to agree the ‘Grove has certainly been a money-maker over the years but just how much, is something not many of us will ever know. And truthfully, it's none of our business. The only concern I would have for the sale would be to hope it would remain a drag strip. We’ve already lost Englishtown and I’m not sure the sport; here in the northeast anyway; could afford to lose another big one.
Englishtown was located in what is arguably the largest media market in the country, New York. Located outside of Philadelphia, Maple Grove tends to pull from generally the same market. The Keystone Nationals at the ‘Grove; as any local will always call that race; used to be held two weeks after Indy in September. Before it being moved around on the calendar, rain always seemed to plague the event. However, you still had racers showing up as well as hordes of fans. The same held true for the Summernationals (the Englishtown event) which was always held in the heat of the summer in July. Packed stands and packed racers always showed up to enjoy the sweat at that central NJ race track. I'm not sure moving either event did much to increase attendance. But because I’m still $7,999,999.15 short, my opinions don’t count for much.
Now, of course, let’s talk about location. The Englishtown track, being located only minutes outside of New York, is in a very crowded area, one where everyone is looking for a just a little bit of property to build. Along those lines brings added value to the property. I don't think that's why the track was closed, but it does bring up a point.
Maple Grove, on the other hand, is located in a little less real estate-desirable wise area. But the property is still valuable. Eight-million dollars valuable? I doubt from a real estate standpoint but the eight-mil gets you a fully operational race track. One that no doubt is a financially healthy business – we think.
The shame would be to lose another track here in the northeast, something our “neighbors” in southern California know all too well, having lost just about every drag strip in the area, save for maybe one or two. Forgetting losing another major NHRA drag race, the “Grove; as did Englishtown; ran a local race each and every week of the year in addition to several major “other” events. The truth is that when a track closes, a great majority of those racers who run there just quit.
McCardle said, “When York US30 Dragway closed, which is roughly only an hour and a half from my track in central PA, I ‘only’ picked up about 15 racers, and after a year or so, only two of them were still racing.”
So, if anyone is interested in going partners with me, I think I can probably scrounge up another thirty-four cents and I’ll guarantee the ‘Grove will stay a race track. That is until some developer offers us millions more. Hey, isn’t it all about money? -John DiBartolomeo