Aug 02, 2023

Standing room only crowd at Tuesday event to save track

Posted Aug 02, 2023 2:10 AM
Rice Park Save Racetrack event 2023-Photo by Nick Gosnell-Photo was taken prior to the event start time. At least thirty more people came in after this photo was taken.
Rice Park Save Racetrack event 2023-Photo by Nick Gosnell-Photo was taken prior to the event start time. At least thirty more people came in after this photo was taken.

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — A standing room only crowd filled the Rice Park Community Building Tuesday night to find out what they can do to save the historic half-mile oval at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

Larned mayor, Hutch Nationals winner and Hutch native William Nusser knows that it will take work from everyone in that room Tuesday to get the State Fair Board to the table to reconsider their decision.

"I figured seating we had about 120, plus back here, we had about 150 or 200 people," Nusser said. "To get that many people to take time out of their day, as hot as it is. Nobody wants to come off their work and do this. We're just starting."

The goal, stated by Nusser, is to get the Fair Board to hold a meeting to specifically talk about the track and their rationale for the proposed closure. He believes they would get an even larger crowd if that happened.

State Representative Republican Paul Waggoner believes there are some actions the legislature could take to save the track, if they so chose, because the fair has trouble getting big projects done without some state money in the game somewhere.

"As much as they are a fee funded agency, for anything serious, they're always coming to the legislature for money," Waggoner said. "Frankly, if they do something that the legislature thinks is unwise or is sort of counterproductive to the overall mission of the fair, if they start getting the cold shoulder from Topeka, I think that will get their attention. I think it's one of the ways that as a group of organized people that are trying to do something about this, that we can actually make a difference in the way this decision goes."

The legislature could put a budget proviso in when it does its budget work preventing any state money from being used for the track's demolition.

In order to get that done, though, the legislature would need to see some critical mass of voters writing and emailing not only the Governor and State Fair board members, as Nusser called for them to do in the next ten days, but also writing their individual legislators and expressing their hope that at least the track can continue to run races while the plans for the future are being finalized, rather than making the 2023 edition of the Hutch Nationals the last.

"Would I welcome the opportunity to come to this track one more time? Absolutely," said promoter C. Ray Hall. "I don't know how we come back and say we're going to do it again when we've been telling everybody it's the last one. I'm not sure how we do that, but I would welcome the opportunity. What an event. What a way to end it. If that ended it, what a way to end it. I think we can build on what we've done this past July."

Hall understands the dangers of racing during the Fair itself may be too great to allow for that to happen while the midway is active just beyond the grandstand, but Hutch Nationals continuing is a different thing and it's an idea a room full of racers and fans want the fair board to think about and to talk publicly about with them before they tear things down. 

From Hutch Post's vantage point in the room Tuesday night, it did not appear that any members of the fair board or the fair general manager attended.

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