CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — A new report commissioned by the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority paints a grim picture of the conditions at the shuttered Southside Speedway.
The report, written by Martyn Thake, President of Motorsports Consulting Services (MCS), was supposed to determine whether the track “could be reopened and safely run; using the existing facilities with minor repairs requiring little effort or funding.”
The Economic Development Authority paid MCS $6,500 to produce the report.
Thake’s specialty, according to his website, is in evaluating and designing safety features on tracks across the world. He has been inactive in track design for at least 8 years, according to the site, with his last project in Zhengzhou, China completed in 2014.
The report details extensive problems with Southside Speedway, which opened over sixty years ago, in 1959, and operated continuously until it shuttered in 2020 amidst pandemic closures.
“The entire facility needs significant repair and or replacement to create a speedway with the safety elements needed,” Thake wrote. “If you decide you want to reopen you will need a designer to lay out the needed upgrades and safety elements and contractors willing to learn new techniques and processes.”
Among the issues he highlighted were cracked and warped pavement, inadequate safety barriers and decaying hospitality facilities.
He judged that pavement on the track itself would likely need to be fully excavated and re-poured, and that to ensure the safest track, the whole length would need to be re-graded.
He also highlighted the barriers along the outside of the track, designed to shield onlookers from cars impacting the edge of the track.
He wrote that the current steel plates were not in good condition and that they were an outdated form of protection that “while popular in the ’70s is not accepted anymore.”
He said any new barriers would need to be “capable of taking a direct impact from the heaviest car that will be racing there at its maximum speed.”
Steel plate barriers along the outside of the track, which the Chesterfield report found were inadequate. (Courtesy of Chesterfield County)
At times, Thake also ventured into speculation on the state of the facilities that strayed beyond his expertise. In evaluating the state of a broadcast booth and some storage units on the property, he wrote, “my guess is that all the buildings will have to be replaced,” but only cited broken windows and doors, as well as a set of bleachers that had been rendered unusable.
He also did not give a range of potential costs for the necessary repairs, but speculated that “the cost of bringing this facility up to useable condition, would be close to and maybe more than leveling the facility and building a new one.”
He did not provide any cost estimate, comparisons to previous projects or other evidence of that claim.
Thake will give a presentation of the report to the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, November 16, after which, Garrett Hart, Director of the Chesterfield EDA, said the county will discuss “suggested next steps.”