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Race track relocating to Thornburg

BY BILL FREEHLING

The owner of a stock-car and drag-racing facility near Manassas plans to relocate the complex to a 160-acre site just off Interstate 95 in Thornburg.

Steve Britt, principal owner of the Old Dominion Speedway, is under contract to purchase land just north of Mudd Tavern Road from a man who lives outside the Fredericksburg area. The sale is contingent on various government approvals, including a rezoning and special-use permit from Spotsylvania County.

The new facility will be called the Dominion Raceway and will be easily visible from I–95. The main entrance will be off Mudd Tavern Road near the northbound ramp onto I–95.

Britt wants to create a racing-focused entertainment complex that could also be used year-round for  festivals, karting, collector car auctions, drive-in movies and other special events. Though he hasn’t spoken with a local group pursuing a minor league baseball stadium, he thinks that could be part of it.

Old Dominion has been in its current site in Manassas for more than 60 years, but is now hemmed in by residential development. That has led to frequent noise complaints from neighbors, which convinced Britt to search for new locations along I–95 between Stafford County and Richmond.

He has spent much of the past two years looking at sites, including some in both Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. He said he ultimately selected the Thornburg property for a variety of reasons, foremost among them the interstate and a lack of dense residential development nearby.

The interstate provides easy access to many thousands of race fans and high visibility to passersby, and generates a lot of noise of its own. The site is also bordered by the Po River and a more-than-400-acre wooded property that is under conservation easement.

The land is in an area targeted for commercial growth and already has nearby motels. And it’s reasonably close to Lake Anna.

The centerpiece of the planned Dominion Raceway is an oval track that will be four-tenths of a mile and attract up-and-coming  racers looking to advance to the NASCAR ranks.

An adjacent grandstand will seat 3,500 people. There will be a three-level building featuring office space for Dominion employees, a food and retail area, and suites that companies or individuals can lease.

Britt plans to sell naming rights to the complex and other corporate sponsorships. He wants to make the facility as interactive as possible for fans and plans to include a Jumbotron screen.

The complex will also have a drag-racing strip, and a 2-mile road course that auto enthusiasts could use. There will be a large area for parking and festivals.

Near the entrance will be pad sites for commercial uses such as restaurants, gas stations and automotive dealerships.

Britt estimates it will cost $10 million to $12 million to buy the land, develop the site and build the racing complex. He will have partners in the development and is interested in talking to investors.

About 15 people would work at the Dominion Raceway full time, and another 60 to 100 people would staff events. Britt isn’t asking for public incentives, but has requested that Spotsylvania officials expedite the approval process.

Last week he was in front of Spotsylvania’s Economic Development Authority in closed session to discuss the project. Britt’s attorney, Charlie Payne of the Hirschler Fleischer law firm, plans to file the rezoning application in a month.

A quick approval would allow Britt to open the facility in time for the 2014 racing season. He is under contract to sell the 40 acres where the Old Dominion Speedway is currently located to a homebuilder this coming April and wants to start developing the Spotsylvania facility soon thereafter. The typical season runs March through October.

Britt says he won’t pursue another location for his raceway if the Thornburg site doesn’t secure the various government approvals. He’s looked up and down the I–95 corridor and thinks he has found the perfect spot.

“It’s as good as it gets,” Britt said of the site. “This is where it needs to be.”

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405

bfreehling@freelancestar.com

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