Auto track proposed in Essex area Facility would cater to short-track events

June 21, 1996

Ed and Melissa "Missy" Berge are the latest area residents to present a plan for a multi-purpose auto racing track near Baltimore.

Last night, at a meeting of the Speedway Citizens' Advisory Committee at the Riverwood Family Center on Back River Neck Road, the Berges and their consultant and general manager, Joe Mattioli III, presented a new plan for a 1,000-acre property in the Essex/Middle River area.

"We've looked at what the land can accommodate and we've looked at the realities of our chances of getting a Winston Cup race and decided our goal will be to be the Charlotte of short tracks," said Mattioli, referring to Charlotte Motor Speedway, a state-of-the-art facility for major-league auto racing.

Originally, the Berges hoped to build a 1.5-mile superspeedway, but now are planning to build a three-quarters-mile tri-oval, with a three-eighths-mile course in its infield. The two courses could accommodate the Indy Racing League, Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck Series, ARCA and ASA stock cars and a regular Saturday night racing program, plus special programs such as the World of Outlaws sprint cars, dirt bikes and tractor pulls.

The plan they presented calls for a 40,000-seat facility with 30 to 50 sky boxes and a motorsports club, similar to Charlotte's posh Speedway Club.

"It's economically the type of business that brings out-of-towners to town," said Mattioli. It is the kind of development that fills a need in motor sports. And we want it to be so dynamic that when you walk in the front door it blows you away."

Baltimore County Executive C. A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger III said he supports the project as long as the proper infrastructure can be put into place.

"It is a positive, strong location, the best land in the East Coast and most of the infrastructure is already in place -- with Amtrak and Route 95 right there," he said. "But we need a lot of help to complete the building of Route 43.

"The issue, from the government point of view, is the money we need to have 43 built. And I'm going to use the power of my office in Annapolis to make sure we can expedite the funding of 43."

Ruppersberger said he also is encouraging the Berges to make sure the facility could accommodate Winston Cup racing should a date become available.

The change in plans for the track took the community group by surprise last night. Bill Bafitis voiced concerns when not hearing any plans for an attached business park. Robert Palmer was concerned that the community was being asked to support the undertaking without having a clear picture of the project.

Upon hearing that NASCAR Winston Cup racing was not immediately in their future and that weekly night racing may well be, other residents asked about noise and air pollution problems.

"I really didn't hear any negative questions," said Ellen Jackson, a community resident who is working as a liaison between the community and the Berges. "What I heard was questions from a concerned community. They've got an open mind. They're just looking for a definite plan before any decisions are made."

The Berges have an option on the A. V. Williams property, located near Martin State Airport on Eastern Boulevard, and, if approved, the track would be built there. Mattioli said the cost for the facility would be about $35 million and that it could be in operation by 1999. A more detailed plan is expected in 30-60 days.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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