The Unfortunate Closure of Speedworld Raceway Park
JULY 14, 2023
The Speedworld Raceway Park in Wittmann, Arizona, once a bustling hub for motorsport enthusiasts, has unfortunately shuttered its doors. This unfortunate development has sent shockwaves throughout the racing community, highlighting the ongoing struggle between local governments and racing venues.
History of Speedworld Raceway Park
Established in 1961, the Speedworld Raceway Park started its journey as Phoenix Dragway. Over the decades, it has changed hands multiple times and expanded its facilities to cater to an array of motorsports enthusiasts. The park was not just a drag strip but a multifaceted racing facility that included a motocross park, an off-road park, mud bogs and sand drags, a paintball park, a BMX track, and even an R/C airplane venue.
Conflict with Local Government
The roots of the dispute between the Speedworld Raceway Park and the local government can be traced back to 2006. The conflict began when the park's owner, Dan Matthews, applied for a permit to run electrical lines to the property. The county responded by stating that the park had expanded beyond its original special-use permit by 261 acres and would need to file for a new permit.
Missing Documents and Unapproved Construction
Further complicating matters was the county's revelation that the original 1961 case file was missing. They decided to consider the plan submitted by Matthews in 2006 as the official record. However, the county claimed to have documented unapproved construction in 2009, leading to a series of disagreements.
Attempt to Resolve the Dispute
Speedworld officials tried to negotiate with the county officials in hopes of keeping the facility operational. The track management proposed an arrangement to remain open for 30 race weekends a year on a temporary use permit, which they hoped would help raise the necessary funds for the required improvements. Unfortunately, this deal did not come to fruition.
The final nail in the coffin was when the Maricopa County officials refused to issue a temporary use permit they had initially agreed to, leading to the cancellation of Speedworld’s National Open. This decision ultimately led to the immediate closure of the iconic park, leaving many motorsport enthusiasts and racers devastated.
Impact on the Community
The closure of the Speedworld Raceway Park has a significant impact on the local community. The park brought in approximately $1 million in revenue each year. Additionally, it provided employment for 50 to 60 part-time employees during events. The park's closure also affects the local economy, particularly the restaurants and hotels in the nearby areas of Surprise and Wittmann that benefited from the influx of visitors during events.
The Future of Speedworld Raceway Park
The future of Speedworld Raceway Park remains uncertain. Despite the closure, many hope that a resolution can still be reached that will allow the park to reopen. However, until then, the park remains a silent monument to the vibrant racing culture that once thrived there.
The closure of Speedworld Raceway Park is a sad chapter in the history of motorsports in Arizona. It underscores the challenges faced by racing facilities in navigating local government regulations. The hope remains that a resolution can be found that balances the needs of the racing community with the requirements of local governance.