CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County will soon present a consultant’s report on the viability of Southside Speedway, a beloved community institution that has lain dormant for several years.
The site of the old Southside Speedway, tucked away between Route 288, the Powhite Parkway and Genito Road, forms a core portion of the county’s push to revitalize the area under a new Genito/288 Special Area plan.
Saving Southside Speedway?
Southside Speedway shut down in December 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the end of an 60-year history that began when the track opened in 1959. The track was lauded for launching the careers of drivers like Denny Hamlin, a driver raised in Chesterfield who went on to win the Daytona 500 three times.
The Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) purchased the track shortly after it shut down, hoping to integrate the property with the nearby River City Sportsplex — a county project that has been heavily promoted as a sports-tourism attraction by the county alongside ‘The Lake,’ a waterpark and hotel complex sited nearby.
While the county has not yet decided on an exact use for the speedway, many residents who attended races at the speedway for years have called on the county to re-invest in the facilities and re-open them for short-track racing.
Now, the board of supervisors is prepared to receive a report from Martyn Thake, a consultant with Motorsports Consulting Services, who analyzed the state of Southside Speedway and determine how much money would be needed to “make it viable as a racing venue.”
Making a Decision
Thake will present the results of his evaluation at the board’s November 16 meeting, after which they’ll make a final decision on the Genito/288 Special Focus Area Plan — a plan that will likely set the fate of Southside Speedway.
The current version of the plan doesn’t specify one use, but lists several potential purposes, including a sports stadium, an entertainment venue, a racing museum and, yes, a racing facility.
In a press release posted on Friday, the county said the possibility of re-opening the track was still very much in play.
“County leaders have not closed the door on the eventual resumption of auto racing at Southside Speedway,” the release read. “In fact, the EDA’s purchase of the site is the only reason that possibility even exists; its prior owners originally had planned to sell the property to an apartment developer.”
But that plan will likely depend on how expensive the track is to renovate. While the county has committed $17.2 million to expand the nearby River City Sportsplex, that money came from a recently approved bond referendum — an option unlikely to be available again in the near future.
“Now we’re doing our due diligence and considering what we can do with our racetrack,” Supervisor Winslow said. “The consultant we’ve hired is part of that effort.”