Major racetrack planned for Central Illinois

by Joe Spence and Norm Winick

With a preponderance of negative economic news locally, area developer Randy Hellyer hopes he can start reversing that trend by starting with a major project of his own.

Hellyer, of Oak Run, has filed for zoning approval in Peoria County for a multipurpose racing facility just slightly over the Peoria County side of the Knox-Peoria County line. This multi-track raceway would showcase the Peoria-Galesburg region and hopefully help it gain some positive national media recognition during national racing events at the planned site.

The location is approximately 2.5 miles west of Brimfield, 3/4 miles west of U.S. Route 150, and is bounded on the north and west by Illinois Route 78 and Interstate highway 74 on the south. The proposed project will encompass slightly less than 300 acres when approved. The Peoria County Zoning Board of Appeals will conduct a hearing on March 11th. If they consent, then it could be expected that the Land Use Committee and the Peoria County Board would vote for approval during the month of April.

After that time, Investors will be allowed to purchase stock in the corporation, "I-74 Raceway Park, Inc." Once funding levels have met the minimum criteria, the land options will be exercised, construction plans developed and the facility constructed under the developer’s watchful eye.

Proposed track facilities include a quarter-mile I.H.R.A. national event drag strip, a three-eighths-mile high banked asphalt oval, a road course (which could be 1-1/2 to 3-1/4 miles) and a figure-8 racing track. Other uses such as motorcycle racing, monster truck racing, sports car club uses, demolition derby, drivers training facilities, youth racing, car shows, outdoor concerts and homeland security are all possible. The seating, sound and concession facilities would all be state-of-the-art.

Numerous experts were contacted to help in the pre-zoning studies necessary prior to filing for approval by Peoria County.

Central Illinois workers should also benefit greatly from construction of this facility since it is the intention of the developer to use union labor in construction of the near $10-million project.

There is even space to provide the The Brimfield-Yates City-Elmwood EMT’s (B.Y.E. Ambulance Service) with an area to locate a satellite ambulance building. With the increase in assessed value, the cash-strapped ambulance service could come closer to balancing their budget.

Robin Hanna, Manager of the Rural Economic Technical Assistance Center at Western Illinois University conducted an economic study known as an "IMPLAN" study. IMPLAN creates an economic model of the area and helps determine the level of job creation and support. Hanna’s study indicates that 105 construction jobs will be created to build the facility. Then, during operation of the race track, minimum use will create and spin-off up to 620 jobs worth about $41.75 million. Maximum facility usage could generate as many as 1,866 jobs and over $125 million revenue locally.

The track itself will employ five to ten full-time workers but hire as many as 200 part-timers to staff the facility for major racing events.

Dr. James Rabchuk, also of Western Illinois University, conducted a "Sound Study" to determine levels of sound that could be produced by this type of racing facility. Rabchuk comes highly qualified — including working for a time at the Argonne National Laboratory. The basics from the study indicate that the residents of the village of Brimfield will be essentially unaffected — barely affected by sound produced by racing activities at the proposed facility.

Ron Colson of Track Planning Associates has contributed to the site selection, land option process and basic economic information. Further, he has developed the proposed facility layout. Colson’s background in racing dates back to 1960. During his time in racing he was IHRA Champion funny car driver. In his driving career, he was pilot of such famous rides as the "Hawaiian" and the "Chi-Town Hustler." Currently, Colson, designs and builds or rehabilitates racing facilities throughout the world.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has reviewed the basic traffic issues at this location and will review the final traffic control plan and issue a permit once the facility goes to the design stage.

The Peoria County Health Department will issue a permit for sewage disposal based on recommendations by a soils expert and a civil engineer’s design recommendations. The Health Department will review and permit such other items as water and food services, providing appropriate regulations are met.

In order to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, Joe Spence (co-author of this article) was chosen by Hellyer to help in locating and securing experts to do the pre-zoning consulting for the tracks. His background in zoning, engineering and racing helped him locate appropriate consulting specialists.

This is not the first time the area has been considered as a site for big-time racing. At one time Diane Cullinan (well-known Peoria Developer) had worked with Hellyer to secure a NASCAR track for the area. Unfortunately, during this same time period, Tony George (owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) was involved in site selection for a drag strip/race track. The racing facility was recently constructed near Joliet, thus placing Randy and Diane’s plans for big time racing on hold. Eventually, Diane gave up on the project but Randy never gave up the idea of bringing quality racing to this region.

More than 2 million persons reside inside the potential immediate market area for the tracks. Hellyer believes that the facility will work to enhance and expand amateur and professional drag racing. Apparently the owners of Cordova Dragway Park are secure in these same ideas, since they will be providing some of the management and employee training necessary to run such a facility.

Between the national media exposure gained for the Central Illinois Area and the location along I-74 which has traffic in excess of 5 million vehicles per year, it would be tough for anyone to find a better site anywhere in Illinois.

In the near future a website <> will be on-line soon. It is expected that a color preliminary site plan, a FAQ’s page and an e-mail link will be included so that area race fans can follow the progress of the project.