Madison’s World Wide Technology Raceway has a long history of searching for NASCAR

MADISON – Today it is a huge complex of concrete, steel and asphalt. But at one time, what was now called the World Wide Technology Raceway was a swamp.

June 5 The planning and equipment upgrade for the first Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup Series is underway, and the start of the facility has been modest.

The first incarnation of the track was the 1/8 mile tow bar, which opened in 1967. as St. Louis International Raceway. 1966 Wayne Meinert leased land from Helen Bergfield, which will eventually become a tow bar.

Rosemarie Brown, executive director of the Southwest Madison County Chamber of Commerce and a friend of Bergfield, recalls when Bergfield’s husband David told his wife he had acquired the property.

“When he came home and told him what he was doing, she was very angry with him,” Brown recalled. “It was absolutely nothing but a swamp; it was an area with only rubbish and water.

“When she sold it, we celebrated,” Brown said. “She never thought she would sell that property and see what it is today.”

Other features were added over the years, and the tow lane was later expanded to include a road route. Bigger changes began in the mid-1990s when open-wheel race promoter Chris Pook, best known for the development of the Long Beach Grand Prix, leased a lot of real estate and began developing the then Gateway International Raceway.

In addition to the track, he also received property managed by the former nightclub Stages, which was in the area around turns 3 and 4 of the current trail. The club was owned by Thomas Venezia, who owned an illegal video poker empire before it was overthrown by the federal government. Known for allowing minors to drink, the nightclub was confiscated but was run by the same team of executives when in 1996. February. local and state police raided it, accusing more than 70 people.

That area wasn’t the only one Pukas looked at. According to officials at the time, he inspected several objects, but chose most of them. Louis International Raceway, as it already had all the necessary permits, the development of the track was interrupted.

It also gave the city of Madison, where the route and some surrounding property were included in the 1980s, considerable leverage, allowing the city to enter into a fairly favorable redevelopment agreement when a tax increase financing (TIF) district was created.

Due to the narrowing of the TIF law, money could be transferred from one TIF district to adjacent districts, so city officials made sure all districts were in touch. They could use some of their money for sewerage and other improvements, the largest of which is now the fire station on Third Street.

The city also introduced a ticket fee, taking into account objections from Puok and St. Clare County officials. The route developed forward and in 1997. May 24 the first big race was held – Motorola 300, CART race.

CART competed with Indycar, and the race was held the day before the Indianapolis 500 race. The track organizers partially hoped that fans of open-wheel racing would arrive at the Gateway one day and travel to Indianapolis the next.

This was never confirmed. The race was eventually postponed to another date, then canceled. CART and Indycar eventually merged.

From the beginning, the top priority has been to win the Winston Cup Series (now the NASCAR Cup Series). In the mid and late 1990s, NASCAR became increasingly popular as trails and tracks expanded across the country. In the late 1990s, track officials had a plan to expand the number of seats in Madison to about 120,000, in anticipation of a Winston Cup race.

This was never confirmed.

One problem was the parking lot. 1998 The route entered into an agreement with the Southwest Illinois Development Authority to take advantage of its “quick-take” exclusive domain authority to obtain from National City Environmental LLC, a car recycling business known locally as St. Louis automatic shredding.

In addition to providing much-needed parking, the seizure of property was seen as a way to limit development that could damage the track.

National City Environmental operated a small landfill at the site, a by-product of improper shredding vehicles. The company wanted to expand the landfill and add a rail branch. There has been a lot of speculation about the declining landfill site, and officials worried the owner, who lived in Chicago, would try to transport the garbage to Madison by rail.

SWIDA has moved forward with asset takeovers. National City Environmental filed a lawsuit, which was eventually transferred to the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled in 2002. in April made a decision in favor of the company.

The problem is largely due to the difference between ‘public use’ – the traditional role of a prominent area – and ‘public goods’, the idea that a prominent area should be used to boost economic development at the expense of the landowner when others believe their plans are better. Condemnations of “public welfare” have been increasingly questioned.

When the case reached the courts, NASCAR announced that the Winston Cup race on the Chicago Highway and the Kansas Highway, two of the car sports parks under development, had been held without even holding any events. At the time, the Gateway had had some fairly successful single-race events for several years.

The proposal for a major race was also linked to a number of NASCAR internal policies. The Chicago and Kansas speed sections involved Bill France, who was president of NASCAR at the time, and his family.

1999 Pook sold Gateway to Dover Motorsports. Over the next 11 years, the track has focused on an extensive dredging schedule, as well as several “separate” races in NASCAR, NHRA and the Indy Racing League.

2010 In November, Dover Motorsports announced the closure of Gateway International Raceway.

Under the redevelopment agreement with the City of Madison, the route could receive a set maximum amount of TIF funding for approved projects. The track approached that figure; and when it hit, the city would receive all TIF funds – about 2 million. USD per year.

Before announcing the closure of the track, Dover Motorsports asked for significant tax cuts.

2011 At the end of 2012, a team of developers, including Curtis Francois, announced plans to acquire the facility and resume the race in 2012. Since then, major tracks such as the NHRA, the Camping World Truck Series, Indycar and more than 300 annual events have been added to the site. on the track.

The racetrack, which spans more than 600 acres, is the largest outdoor attraction in the St. Louis area. It features a 1/4-mile tow lane, a 1.25-mile highway, the recently expanded 2.0-mile course, the state-of-the-art Gateway Kartplex and the adjacent Gateway National Golf Links.

2019 in April World Wide Technology has acquired track title rights. It will be another two years before the track secures its first race in the NASCAR Cup Series – Enjoy Illinois 300 on Sunday, June 5th.

Godfrey Kemp

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