Firebird Raceway may not be recognizable when it hosts its first event as Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park in September.
Dick Hahne, president of Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park, has big plans for the space. He estimates several million will go into renovations and he hopes to have it all completed in 120 days from Aug. 1.
The future of the raceway appeared unclear when longtime manager of Firebird, Charlie Allen, announced that the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) would not be signing another lease with Firebird. The group that manages the land for GRIC, Sun Valley Marina Corporation, was asked to find a new tenant for the space. Hahne was recruited by Coppertrain Development Partners to enter into a deal with Sun Valley Marina Corporation and take it over. That deal was made early, but it took some time to ensure the raceway still had agreements with Lucas Oil and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
Hahne has an impressive resume in the racing world. He spent more than 25 years as vice president of operations at Daytona International Speedway in Florida. When he started, the race track had three main events. When he left, there were more than 300 active days in the race track. Hahne left Daytona in 2009 and went to work for Musco Sports Lighting, but says his heart was always in motor sports. He was grateful for the chance to get back to it. He moved to Ahwatukee Foothills in April and has spent some time getting to know the raceway, setting up events, and creating a laundry list of upgrades that need to be made.
“This is kind of like déjà vu for me,” Hahne said. “In 1983 when I started at Daytona International Speedway, I walked through weeds knee-high to interview for the job of grounds superintendent. When I was hired I had no budget, no staff, and no equipment. That’s where we sit here today, other than we have a facility. It’s humbling. We’re in the middle of a very large capital project.”
Hahne plans to resurface the drag strip, redo all the suites and control tower, install a state-of-the-art timing and scoring system, add grandstand seats by the starting line, upgrade all restroom facilities, create a hospitality area for vendors to set up in, clean up and landscape areas around all the tracks and the island in the middle of the lake. The group will also update all signs and entrances and really dress up the east road course, since it is frontage against Interstate 10.
“Our goal right now is to clean it up,” Hahne said. “We’ll replace carpeting and landscaping and plant new trees and clean up the entrances and make it really aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately if we’re able to get an extended lease then we can really improve the buildings to look like the casino or the Sheraton and talk about getting more investors out here… There is so much opportunity.”
There are already plans to bring new and exciting events to Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park. Hahne is working on the details of a tractor pulling event in March, which would be invitation-only and broadcast on national TV. Tractor pulling has not been brought to Firebird before. NHRA’s Heritage Drag Series will also be coming in January.
The first event at the new Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park will be a Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series Sept. 13-15. For more information, visit lucasoildragboats.com.
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