Calgary

$35M motorsports racetrack breaks ground, set to be ready for summer 2021

Racing enthusiasts will soon have a new place to burn rubber, after construction started on a $35-million, world-class racetrack near Carstairs.

Memberships for the track near Carstairs cost $37,000

It's been almost a decade since southern Alberta has had a motorsports racetrack, and Dominic Young, CEO of Rocky Mountain Motorsports, says he's excited to finally break ground on the $35-million project. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Racing enthusiasts will soon have a new place to burn rubber, after construction began Thursday on a $35-million, world-class racetrack near Carstairs.

"At a time when the Alberta economy has been devastated, we're proud to move forward," said Dominic Young, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Motorsports.

"The development of Rocky Mountain Motorsports over the next several years is going to create hundreds of construction years of work," he said. "Once we get our commercial zone up and running, it's going to create hundreds of new, permanent jobs for the region as well." 

Young says the 3.5-kilometre track will have 16 turns and 38 metres of elevation change.

Membership will cost $37,000.

Despite the expensive price tag, Young says he is not worried about a lack of members for the high-priced venture.

Dominic Young, Rocky Mountain Motorsports CEO, says the COVID-19 pandemic will not stop construction nor does he expect it to slow membership sales. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"You know, we get comments from people saying $37,000 for a membership is just for rich people but the fact of the matter is, those people who can invest and become members are essentially creating a facility for use by other people who don't have that ability to do that," he said.

"We need to have that level of membership to get this done."

Young explains that the track will be rented out to different groups, such as a new performance driving school that will teach better driving skills for all levels of drivers in the future.

"We want to open an emergency handling safety centre as well to teach people, young and old alike, how to deal with skidding in your vehicle, how to deal with oversteering and steering just to make our roads safe," he said.

Racing comeback

The track is being built for an auto-racing comeback in the Calgary area. 

Damon Ockey, a sports car driver, says he usually has to race in the United States and is excited to have a track close to home.

"Just having somewhere close by that we can drive fast at rather than have to travel.… You look out and just beautiful scenery, lots of elevation. You can kind of see the track they're kind of starting to form in the dirt and it's just super exciting to see that," he said.

Ockey adds that he thinks the facility will serve a wide range of the public.

Crews are excavating and building the foundation now, and the CEO expects it will be ready by next summer. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

However, it will not be a space for spectators.

Greg Phillips, who runs the Calgary Exotic Auto Guild, says the facility will not be that much different than a golf club in how it operates. 

It's really focused on the track driving experience itself, not the spectator experience," he said.

"A golf course doesn't have to have a PGA Tour event to be a successful golf course, and in that same vein, [a racetrack] is a place that's used by its members and enjoyed by its members, and that's sufficient." 

As well, Phillips says, having the racetrack will get high-performance cars off the streets and to a place where they can exercise their racing skills. 

CEO says no COVID-19 impact

Young says despite starting construction during the COVID-19 pandemic, he does not believe it will impact membership sales.

"I think that people can see that, you know, using a track is something outdoors, you're typically on your own in your car, or if you have someone with you, it's your family member," he said.

"So there's no reason why recreational racing can't happen with or without COVID-19."

By next spring, the project will be nearing the checkered flag as it's expected to be finished for summer. 

With files from Terri Trembath

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