A track facility 'not just for racing'

January 15, 1995|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Racetrack developer D. Richard Rothman wooed a crowd in Aberdeen Tuesday with plans for nonracing events at the proposed Maryland Motorsports Park near Havre de Grace.

Boy Scout jamborees, Earth Day festivals, antique shows, a performing arts center, soccer and lacrosse fields and charity fund raisers were among the uses he suggested for the proposed 550-acre facility.

"Maryland Motorsports Park is not just for racing," he said.

Mr. Rothman and several speakers addressed more than 400 people at a standing-room-only meeting at the Sheraton Inn in Aberdeen.

The session was sponsored by R.I.G.H.T. (Racing Is Good for Harford Tourism), a group that was formed to enlist public support for the racetrack.

The proposal is for a $10 million, multipurpose motor sports complex off U.S. 40, about 1 1/2 miles from downtown Havre de Grace.

The complex would include a 2.5-mile road course, designed to specifications suited to every kind of racing from vintage cars to Indy, stock and Formula One cars, an amphitheater and band shell for music festivals and picnicking areas.

"We will have a world-class facility right here in Harford County and Havre de Grace," Mr. Rothman told the group.

He said the racetrack would be used for racing events about 21 days a year.

Other speakers showed racing videotapes on three television monitors and shared their enthusiasm for the sport.

L Their underlying message was that racing is a family affair.

"I'm a family man. . . . It's a good environment and keeps kids off the streets," said race car driver Ted Hulse, who has won 15 driving championships.

"One of the most fun things about [go-] karting is the friends you meet and the families you meet," said Doug Worthington, president of the Woodbridge (Va.) Kart Club.

"I hope to see karting at Maryland Motorsports Park."

The speakers said they also wanted to dispel any erroneous perceptions about race car drivers and their fans.

"I don't think you'll have any trouble with the type of people you draw to the track," said Al Hedgecock, president of the Dover Chamber of Commerce, which promotes the race car competitions at Dover Downs International Speedway.

"Our relationship with the community of Delaware is excellent."

Joanne Motto of Aberdeen, who was in the audience, said, "There's a misconception that you will get a bunch of rednecks ready to fight. I've been to Dover. It's family, husbands and children.

"In 10 years, I've never seen an incident," she said.

"We're really not a bad group of people," Mr. Hulse said.

"There's a stigma that race car drivers have a rolled cigarette in their sleeve and drive with a beer in the other hand.

"We have family get-togethers. We welcome families."

That's just what Jerry Coudon, 29, wanted to hear.

"There's really not much for kids to do," the Havre de Grace native said.

"There's been no growth in recreation areas."

But not everyone in the audience was captivated by the racetrack plan.

"There are a lot of ambiguity statements: 'We might, We shall,' " said Doug Hathaway of Havre de Grace.

"What about the noise study?"

Havre de Grace residents could face moderate to severe noise from the racetrack depending on wind conditions, according to a recent report.

The study, conducted by Georges R. Garinther, an acoustics research engineer, was presented last month to a task force that is studying the racetrack proposal.

The 14-member group was appointed by Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther Hirsch last summer to make a recommendation to the Havre de Grace City Council on the proposed track.

The task force's final report is expected soon.

Mr. Hathaway said he would be joining CAR (Citizens Against Racetrack) after attending the R.I.G.H.T. meeting. CAR was formed in July after residents of the Havre de Grace area learned of Mr. Rothman's proposal to build a racetrack.

Mr. Rothman has an option to buy the property known as the Blenheim Farm.

It is zoned industrial-residential and agricultural.

The track's developers want Havre de Grace to annex the land so local zoning can be amended to accommodate the racetrack.

If the Havre de Grace City Council decides to annex the land, Harford County Council action on a waiver for a zoning change would also be required.

Traffic congestion on race days also is a concern of CAR members. Even Mr. Hedgecock, the Dover Chamber president, mentioned the problem.

"When you come up from Rehoboth and meet 100,000 people leaving the track, bring a book," he recommended, referring to Dover's racing days.

Sandy Ayres of Aldino, a member of the R.I.G.H.T. steering committee, said she is convinced there are not enough negatives to outweigh the positives of the racetrack.

"The noise is nothing. It's like listening to your neighbor's riding mower," she said.

Meanwhile, R.I.G.H.T. is continuing to circulate petitions seeking support for the sports complex. The groups says it already has collected more than 7,000 signatures.

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