In the most depressing surprise announcement ever, one of the tracks on many racers’ bucket lists announced that it would cease operations on October 31 of this year. According to Deseret News, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies decided not to renew their lease on Miller Motorsports Park’s land.
From afar, this seems like a shocking announcement. The Ford Performance Racing School is based out of Miller, as are several race teams, track-related businesses and private garages. It was a state-of-the-art facility when it was built, and the 511-acre site features both on-track and off-road courses. The track itself was the longest one in North America at 4.5 miles [edit: until Thunderhill’s extension opened last year]. Professional series such as Pirelli World Challenge and MotoAmerica still have dates scheduled for this year.
Likewise, it was accessible to amateurs as well. Wide Open Wednesdays, for example, gave locals as much track time as they could stomach for $50, albeit released one at a time. Amateur series like the 24 Hours of LeMons and National Auto Sport Association ran there as well.
It’s a stunning facility, too, surrounded by the mountains near Salt Lake City.
However, Deseret News reports that the facility has been losing millions of dollars since its opening. The facility was founded as a pet project for Larry H. Miller and son Roger Miller, who both enjoyed racing. Although both Larry and Roger passed on, their family’s company continued to run the track, which was on land leased from Tooele County, Utah.
Additionally, many suspect that racing all the way out in Tooele was a hard sell for folks who weren’t die-hard racing fans. While it is in the same general area as Salt Lake City, it’s a 40 minute drive from the city to the track.
“The marketplace isn’t big enough and racing isn’t popular enough to sustain a motorsports park of this size and sophistication,” Larry H. Miller Group of Companies vice president of communications Linda Luchetti told KSL.com.
According to Luchetti, the family tried several different business models over the past decade, but ultimately decided that their time and money would be better spent elsewhere.
Miller Motorsports Park sits on land owned by Tooele County, even though Miller made the improvements on it. KSL.com reports that the entire track facility will revert back to Tooele County after the lease ends, with no other company set up to take over the operations of the track itself.
According to Deseret News, Tooele County commissioners had a meeting scheduled with Miller Sports Properties and former Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Greg Miller on Friday afternoon. Prior to the meeting on Friday, the news of Miller’s closing surprised them as well. The meeting was supposed to be about tourism in the area, and Tooele County commissioner Shawn Milne hadn’t heard anything from the Miller family about not renewing their lease on the track as of late Friday morning.
Many tenants of the track were also surprised by the news. “None of the tenants saw it coming and had to find out by reading or listening to the news instead of getting any notice from the track,” explained Sarah Roth, who works out of Miller at Air Power Racing. Very few people were tipped off before the announcement was made to close the track. She called the news “extremely heartbreaking.”
The track plans to hold its full schedule through October 31. After then, the facility is in limbo.
Naturally, there’s already a Facebook group for “Save Miller Motorsports Park,” where fans of the track are hoping to find a viable long-term solution to keeping the facility open.
“On behalf of my family, I would like to thank all of those who have supported the track over the years, both locally and worldwide, for their enthusiasm and use of the facility,” Larry H. Miller Group of Companies owner Gail Miller said in a statement on Miller Motorsports Park’s website.
Between the driving schools, race weekends and other activities that happen at the track, it seems unfathomable that it would close so soon. Here’s hoping that it stays open somehow.
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