Renewed calls to ‘Save Southside Speedway’ ahead of community meeting

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Residents with ties to Southside Speedway are voicing their concerns about the future of the property, with a community meeting set for Thursday night to discuss ideas for the Genito/288 Special Focus Area, which encompasses the shuttered short track.

During its June 23, 2021 meeting, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of funds to the Chesterfield County Economic Development Authority (EDA) to purchase the former Southside Speedway property at the intersection of Genito Road and Oak Lake Boulevard.  

The 47.1-acre property, which consists of three parcels straddling Genito Road, is currently zoned for General Business (C-5) uses, which allows for the most intense commercial uses, such as automobile repair, heavy equipment rental, RV sales and rental, manufactured home sales, building materials sales yard, shed and carport sales, self-storage facility, recycling center and warehousing.

The decades-old Southside Speedway closed permanently in 2020. On Dec. 11 of that year, a letter was posted to the track’s Facebook page, detailing its closure after the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

A letter was posted to Southside Speedway’s Facebook page at the end of 2020, detailing the closure of the track. (Photo: Southside Speedway)

Since then, local residents with ties to the speedway have been hoping for its eventual reopening, with concerns about its future being heightened after Chesterfield County announced plans to purchase the property encompassing Southside Speedway.

“I wouldn’t have an issue with the county purchasing the property,” county resident Jennifer Allen told 8News back in June. “I think it would be great if they would invest a little in it, update it. I wouldn’t change the actual track a lot because it’s great the way that it is.”

The county did end up reaching an agreement to purchase the property. But what will be done with it next remains up for discussion.

“We have kind of an area of transition. If you look around, there’s a lot of different uses,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chair and Clover Hill District Representative Chris Winslow. “The thought of putting in five-story condos on this property really just didn’t appeal to me, and at that point, I sort of asked staff to take a look at the property as, potentially, a place where we could expand what we’re already doing at River City Sportsplex.”

Fans used to gather at Southside Speedway on Friday nights. (Photo: Jennifer Allen)

With Southside Speedway’s proximity to River City Sportsplex, local leaders want to hear from the public about ways to enhance the area and maximize the experience of both county residents and visitors to the Sportsplex. That’s why there’s a Genito/288 Special Focus Area Plan Community Meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Although there is no official agenda for the meeting, a spokesperson for the county told 8News that there will be a presentation by Planning and Parks & Recreation, which will include some of the comments collected about ideas for the area, and then some discussion about the future of River City Sportsplex and development within the Special Focus Area.

According to the Chesterfield County government website, the county has already collected considerable public input on the area via an online survey, receiving nearly 1,200 responses over a three-week period.

“I grew up here, and I’d love to continue to grow here,” said former Southside Speedway announcer Buck Reuss. “I know they have a large decision to make because it entails the cost of demolition and clearing the land, as opposed to what they can do with the land, and then, if they want to salvage, how much it would cost to turn it back into an operational facility. So my hope is that the investors come in and it can be put back together.”

Capital improvements proposed in the River City Sportsplex master plan include construction of a splash park as part of a 1.5-acre destination playground, an adult fitness area with a rubberized track, a 5k multi-use trail, a picnic area with shelters and restrooms, and a multipurpose event building. Where the Southside Speedway property fits into all of that is yet to be determined.

“This track, being in this configuration, at 60 years is a historical landmark. So I’m pretty sure that the officials understand that. There’s surrounding communities that sometimes would like it gone for the noise, and it’s been nice and quiet for them for a few years now. So I do understand that,” Reuss said. “But then, I also feel in my heart that everything that happened or happens here is part of that history and heritage, and seeing it in disrepair right now’s a little soul-shaking.”

Racer Lauren Edgerton said that since Southside Speedway closed, she hasn’t been racing as much.

“This was my favorite place to race,” she told 8News. “There’s nothing else like it in the county. You have all these other sports facilities and such. But you don’t have another racetrack.”

This map shows the Genito/288 Special Focus Area, which encompasses the Southside Speedway property. (Photo: Chesterfield County)

Edgerton said that approximately a decade of racing at the speedway even inspired her career choice.

“It’s great for promoting, giving youth a real-life scenario for getting them interested in your STEM fields. I’m a mechanical engineer, and racing is what sent me down that path,” she said. “You never know what you might inspire.”

A final decision on what will be done with the speedway and other key properties in the Genito/288 Special Focus Area is not being made Thursday night. The community meeting is meant to serve as an opportunity for discussion, with the introduction of a draft master plan for River City Sportsplex that, according to Chesterfield County’s website, aims to enhance the visitor and user experience, increase the facility’s overall attractiveness as a large-scale tournament host and provide additional recreation opportunities for county residents.

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