Spurred by a grassroots movement to see a return of racing to the now-closed Southside Speedway, Chesterfield officials are shifting gears in their bid to revitalize the site.
The county confirmed last week its plans to put out a request for proposals to find an operator to reopen the shuttered racetrack.
The RFP, which is expected to go out today (Monday), is a change in direction for the property. Chesterfield previously issued a request for qualifications earlier this year seeking developers to reimagine a 57-acre assemblage that includes the track and surrounding land next to River City Sportsplex.
County officials have eyed the broader site for commercial development like a hotel and restaurants to support the Sportsplex, though they didn’t close the door entirely on racing being an element of the site. Chesterfield still intends to shop the adjacent land for commercial development, but that would come as a separate, future process.
This week’s RFP is specifically for operation and renovation of the racetrack, and the county has carved out the track complex’s 14.8-acre area from the overall assemblage that was subject to the earlier request for qualifications solicitation.
The Chesterfield Economic Development Authority, which owns the Southside Speedway property, could either lease or sell the racetrack site at 12800 Genito Road, depending on what proposal rises to the top as part of the RFP process. The deadline to submit proposals is Oct. 11.
EDA Director Garrett Hart said that in conversations with those eyeing the property, county officials found themselves dealing with two types of parties: Developers more interested in the commercial aspect of the county’s vision for the overall site and people focused on revitalizing the racetrack specifically.
“The developer community we work with isn’t interested in any type of sports entertainment facility. Very few of them are interested in partnering closely with a racetrack,” Hart said. “The racetrack people were struggling to overcome the parts of the RFQ that say you need a hotel development, a retail development, those other things. It was limiting both of them. By separating them, I think we made it easier for both those communities to look at the project.”
Deputy County Administrator Matt Harris said the change in approach comes at the direction of the Board of Supervisors in response to community interest in reopening the track as a racing venue.
“It’s a change of course but the most important thing on that note is the board is being responsive to the feedback it has gotten. There has been tremendous interest in the broader community in exploring this racing topic,” Harris said.
The county’s goals for the property are to “return auto racing to Southside Speedway with sustainable business operations” and to “provide more public entertainment space” for programming like concerts and community events, per the RFP document.
The county wants to see a racing venue that can host at least 5,500 visitors. The facility could also include arcades, theaters, restaurants and other amenities. RFP respondents are required to submit development and financing plans as part of their applications.
A consultant told the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors last year he estimated it would take $10 million to $15 million to renovate and reopen the track, which closed in 2020.
It’s not clear how many and what kind of potential developers the county attracted through its RFQ process that ended in May, and county officials have previously declined to comment on that topic. There was at least one respondent, a group that included Lin O’Neill, a local businessman and leader in the Save Southside Speedway effort.
“We’ve heard from many citizens loud and clear, including those who are passionate about returning racing to Southside,” Supervisor Chris Winslow, who represents the area the track is located, said in a prepared statement. “It’s time to let the process work so that we may achieve a sustainable business plan for the site that helps unlock the area’s immense potential. Conversations and meetings continue as we look for capable partners to work hand in hand with the county.”