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The sale of Kansas City International Raceway puts the brakes on drag racing

It's the end of racing at KCIR.



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A $600,000 profit in eight months looks like a good deal for Park and his investors. But the sale and the way it was handled have led some race fans and dragster hobbyists to say the transaction was nothing more than Park and NP3 flipping the track to line their pockets — and selling out 44 years of racing heritage.

Park repeatedly told race fans and reporters over the last month that his attorney had advised him against speaking with media. He ignored that advice to tell The Pitch that neither city officials nor the frustrated race enthusiasts are telling the full story. Park insists that KCIR had to be sold.

The sale of the raceway has become a finger-pointing mess.

KCIR fans blame Park for selling them out and fault the city for pressuring him to sell.

City officials say they didn't force Park to sell, and fans shouldn't blame them for buying the track.

Park says blame shouldn't lie with him but with the city, which he says gave him an ultimatum to either sell the track or lose it through eminent domain.

"When they [city officials] say we approached them, that is correct," Park says. "We did approach them. They told us to."

Park, who has been involved with the track since 1979, says the city's timeline of negotiation is correct with one omission: The city asked him to put together a plan to sell the track while Park and his investors developed a new race site. Park says the city told him that the first step was to name his price. So he did.

Park claims, however, that the city ignored his offer and sent him a letter in May outlining his rights under condemnation proceedings. He says KC also gave him a counteroffer.

"They sent us a letter offering $1 million, or they will take it via eminent domain," Park says. "They didn't say they could. They didn't say they might. They said they will take it."

The city had a history of trying to buy the raceway. Former City Councilwoman Becky Nace told The Kansas City Star in early November that the City Council tried to buy the track between 2003 and 2007 but never struck a deal.

Neighbors have long complained of the noise. Dan Porrevecchio, a former president of the Little Blue Valley Homes Association, told The Pitch a year ago that getting the track out of the area was the neighborhood's top priority.

This history along with Park's few public comments made it easy for the racing community to cast City Hall as the villain when word leaked in early November that the city was on the verge of buying the track and turning it into a park. A decidedly anti-City Hall narrative emerged.

"I don't think they want us," Park says of city officials. "I think they've made that very clear."

More than 50 race fans rallied in support of the track on the steps of City Hall November 7. As a persistent rain fell, parka-clad racers and their children held signs demanding, "Save Our Racetrack" and "Save KCIR."

Lawyer and racer Mark Epstein (who isn't representing anyone involved) emerged as a de facto spokesman, telling reporters that the city was strong-arming Park and the racers.

Epstein noted that neighbors had complained for years about the noise, fearing that it lowered their property values. But he and the race fans contended that the track wasn't at fault.

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