By Daniel Pagan
A training facility for the University of Calgary solar car team was granted a new lease on life in early October.
Calgary City Council voted to extend the Race City Motorsport Park’s lease until 2015. The current lease was set to expire next year. City administration was hoping to use the land to expand the Shepard Landfill site and build a new storm water pool in the track’s place.
However, their plans faced strong opposition from many Calgarians, who argued the city risked harming tourism and encouraging illegal street racing by closing down the popular track.
The loss of the track would also affect university students said Solar Car team aerodynamics manager Ravi Mani. He warned the team would have to seek out other alternatives if the track closed down. The team, which competes internationally, has used the Race City Motorsport Park to test the car for highway use.
“The racing facilities at the Race City have been a positive advantage to the team, particularly from the standpoint of giving our drivers an opportunity to become familiar with high speed racing,” said Mani. “Even though the upcoming race emphasizes track performance, our driver training program is quite comprehensive and entails many aspects aside from testing/training conducted at the Race City facilities.”
Solar Team project co-chair business manager Ulzhan Salimbayeva said the team would use the track for third-generation car testing.
Ward 12 Alderman Ric McIver said the motorsport park is also important to many families and racers who enjoyed the track.
McIver introduced the notice of motion to renew Race City’s lease for another five years and keep access protected when the landfill is redesigned, which won a narrow 8-7 vote.
“We can build the needed storm water pond on the already owned land immediately east of race city,” said McIver. “This land which is already destined for future land fill use is about 1.5 times the size of the Race City parcel and is currently unused.”
Ward 9 Ald. Joe Ceci, however, said the land is necessary for the landfill expansion. He warned keeping the track open for five more years would cost the city $3 million subsidizing the private business.
“While Race City is important, it perhaps has outgrown its usefulness on city property, given that the property is now needed for other important city purposes,” said Ceci. “All taxpayers should be concerned with a continued racing use there as it will put an increased tax burden on all of us.”
McIver said the cost is worth it, with the track reducing illegal street racing by offering a legal alternative for race fans.
“We should not take lightly sending racing fans and participants and businesses to Medicine Hat or Edmonton,” said McIver. “There is a cost to that which has not been fully accounted for and may be much more valuable than the price of keeping Race City open.”