The Clark County Fairgrounds wants to move forward with its plan to host racing events at its 125-acre lake, which leaders say could draw thousands of tourists and millions of dollars in revenue to Springfield.
The Springfield City Planning Board approved a re-zoning request this week to allow the 185-acre property on Laybourne Road to hold racing events. Springfield city commissioners will vote on it in a few weeks.
If approved, the fairgrounds will host a few water events this year, Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said. Nothing has been scheduled at this point, but some dates in June and July are being considered for power boat and solar boat races, Blair said.
Last November three champion drivers from across the country traveled to the area to test how races could be held on the lake. Then fairgrounds leaders were invited to the Motorsports Trade Show in Indianapolis to talk about the plans, Blair said. The American Boat Association also discussed using the lake in Springfield, he said.
“It’s a great way to promote the community,” Blair said.
The lake could be used now without any upgrades, he said, but improvements could bring higher profile events.
Blair is unsure how much it may cost to build the first phase of the project, but told the News-Sun in November it could be about $200,000 to build infrastructure. Phase one development plans are being drawn up, including a gravel parking lot, lights and a boat ramp, he said, but it’s unclear what it will cost. They’re currently looking for corporate sponsors, he said.
“We would love to see corporate naming rights on the lake,” Blair said.
He hopes to secure funding immediately and have phase one completed by early summer.
The fairgrounds has already received a $25,000 grant from the Springfield Foundation for the improvements, which Blair said would allow them to host retail boat shows.
The events will be held during the day and only on a few dates per year, he said. A majority of the activity will take place on the Laybourne Road side of the lake.
Springfield resident Mary Martin wrote a letter to the planning board opposing the plan due to the noise generated by the boats. The lake is located directly behind Martin’s house, she said. The boats made considerable noise during the trial in November, Martin said.
“There is nothing to buffer the sound and it will have a major impact on my enjoyment of my home,” Martin wrote.
Martin wants a sound test performed at the lake, similar to a noise test performed during a similar request to build an auto racing track at the fairgrounds in the 1990s.
“The noise from 20 power boats will affect residences for miles,” Martin wrote. “These home owners should be included in any discussion of a zoning change.”
The lake won’t become public in the future and will only be used on selected dates, Blair said. The key is that it’s private, fenced and admission can be charged. The events will also be held during the day, he said.
“This is not a public park,” he said. “It’s not something where you can just drive up and put your wave runner in the water.”
The lake is a perfect spot for boat racing, neighbor Paula Collinsworth said on Thursday afternoon. The area already has the Fairgrounds and Champions Center nearby, which brings traffic and noise, she said.
“It’s a great way to build up everything in this area,” Collinsworth said. “I’ve got front row seats right here. I’ve got a beautiful place to watch it.”
The fairgrounds also is looking at creating a course for cross country runners.
Some local schools have expressed interest in moving cross country races to the fairgrounds course, which is being designed to go around the lake. Runners would start and finish at the grandstand, Blair said. The venue would also allow booster clubs to sell T-shirts and concessions in one designated location, he said.
The fairgrounds wants to bring major high school and college events, such as the regional and state tournaments, he said. It will also host a 5K as part of the Clark County Fair this year, Blair said.
The course will be built and maintained through a partnership with the forestry class at the Springfield-Clark Career Technical Center, Blair said. It will also partner with the Global Impact STEM Academy on other community projects.
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By the numbers
185: Acreage of the fairgrounds property being rezoned.
125: Acreage of water at the lake.
$25,000: Grant from the Springfield Foundation to make improvements at the lake.