Private racetrack pitched for South Okanagan
The South Okanagan could be home to a new private car-racing facility called Area 27 Motorsports Club.
Plans for the up to 5.5-kilometre track and related facilities were made public Sunday, Sept. 1., during a press conference at the Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos.
Proponents of the project, South Okanagan Motosports Corporation, want to build the facility on Osoyoos Indian Band land near Oliver.
OIB chief Clarence Louie, on hand for the unveiling of the proposal, was enthusiastic about the potential for the racing facility with a construction budget of up to $12 million.
“I just hope this happens,” said Louie.
The benefit to the OIB, said Louie, in addition to tourism and income derived from renting the land to SOMC, is quite simple.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Louie.
Bill Drossos, president and one of the founders of SOMC, said the idea for a racetrack facility in the Okanagan, modelled on the resort golf club concept, came to him while spending time at the Shannonville Motorsport Park in Ontario.
Every day he went to the Shannonville track, Drossos said he had one thought going through his mind.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had something like this in the Okanagan,” he said.
Then last year, driving back from Mt. Baldy, Drossos remembers looking across the valley at the bench on OIB land and thought it would be the perfect site for a racetrack.
“I’ve never seen a better location anywhere,” he said.
Drossos started making inquiries and phone calls and one of those early calls was to long-time friend Jacques Villeneuve, the famed Canadian Formula 1 and Indy Car champion.
Villeneuve got behind the concept as a founding member of the SOMC, and was hired to design the track.
“I went to check out the piece of land yesterday and there’s good potential,” said Villeneuve.
“Amazing potential actually.”
In addition to designing the race track, Villeneuve also served as inspiration for the name of the racing complex, Area 27.
Both Jacques and his father Gilles raced under the number 27.
Villeneuve said he wants to designing the Area 27 track so that it is challenging, exciting and fun to drive.
“A track where you feel you’re going somewhere, so that there is a logic or a reason for the corners,” he said.
Also on hand for the announcement was Craig Finer, owner of Top Gear Karting in Penticton.
The proposed track near Oliver is a win-win opportunity, said Finer.
With only one karting facility west of Winnipeg, Finer sees Area 27 as an attractive option for go-kart enthusiasts in the northwest.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for, a state of the art facility,” Finer said of the proposed Area 27 facility that also features a go-kart track and club.
“This will put us in a unique position as a karting entity in Canada because there is no other karting club that has a facility like this at their disposal.”
The first phase of construction for Area 27 includes the construction of the asphalt race track at a cost of approximately $7.5 million, as well as a driving academy and an onsite service building for the vehicles.
Plans also include a clubhouse, townhouse condominiums and a car dealership.
There is much work to be done before phase one begins, said SOMC chairman David King.
The initial target, said King, is to sell at least 200 memberships starting at $30,000 with yearly membership dues in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.
Once the memberships are secured, then discussions with the OIB begin, a process which will take several months to complete.
In addition to the driving academy and opportunity to race top-of-the-line street cars, Dossor said SORC would also like to see professional racing at the circuit, including the Canadian Tire NASCAR series and Canadian Superbike motorcycle races.