Proponents of a drag racing facility in Campbell River say they’re concerned that it will likely be made in another municipality instead after the city announced the airport won’t be its home.
The city announced last month that the “challenges related to developing a facility adjacent to the airport” have spurred it to “explore options for alternative locations,” but also expressed its support for the project, in principal, recognizing the “anticipated economic benefits,” of the track.
Jim Johnson, president of the Vancouver Island Motor Sports Association (VIMSA), says he’s certainly disappointed by the city’s announcement and worries it could mean the facility will need to be located in a different community.
“I’ve got three pieces of land in Port Alberni that they want me to look at and there’s another one further south that people want me to look at. There are places that want this frickin’ project,” Johnson says. “But even though I was a drag racer, that’s not the reason I got involved in this thing. I wanted to bring something to Campbell River that would be unique to the Island and would bring a positive economic impact to this community. It’d be a hell of a deal for us to have the only permanent facility on the Island and drag a whole lot of people here.”
But at this point he’s not optimistic, based on the discussions he’s had with the city since they made their announcement.
“They said ‘we’re gonna find you another location,’ and they started showing me these locations and, as I expected, none of them are actually in Campbell River,” Johnson continues. “If it was put in any of these locations, you’d never feel the economic impact in Campbell River that they say is the reason they want to support it.”
Johnson says the announcement by the city “has stirred up a lot of negative feedback,” but he wants to take a “positive approach, because there is significant good news in the release, too,” citing the city recognizing that the need is there for such a facility and that it would be an economic boon to the community to have it built.
He also says after the announcement – and the public’s response he saw to it – he was again reminded about some of the misconceptions that were circulating about what it is they are trying to do, which caused backlash against the plan.
One of these was surrounding noise.
“It’s ridiculous than anybody’s worried about the sound,” Johnson says.
“You’d have to have a huge lull in everyday activities that happen around you all the time for anyone to even slightly hear the loudest race car that we’d ever get there. We didn’t fool around when we did the sound study – we got a 200-mile-an-hour race car to do the test. We’re not trying to fool anybody. I said right from the start that we have no interest in building something in the wrong place. “That would be just stupid.”
Another misconception, Johnson says, is that they were asking for city money to create the facility.
“VIMSA has never asked for any taxpayer money,” he says. “We have only asked to partner with the city to build on their land. We are willing to invest $5 million to improve a piece of unused previously cleared land providing items like roads, taxiways, paved parking areas and mowed grass areas. The open house information said we could request that the road and fence be supplied, but we’d never let that be a stumbling block if they said no.”
But Johnson and the rest of VIMSA are still hopeful that the city will give the airport location another chance, so that the people of Campbell River won’t see this facility located elsewhere “and only then realize that we missed another great opportunity.”