Richmond International Raceway (RIR) has retained two of the U.S.A.’s nationally prominent consulting firms to help plan the future of development at its more than 1,000 acres along Laburnum Avenue in Henrico County.
Cushman & Wakefield and HOK will work to determine the “highest and best use” of the land the racetrack owns and to plan potential future improvements.
New development at the site would be a boon not just for Henrico but for the region as a whole, said Jack Berry, President and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. He added:
We’re very excited, because they’ve got the best consultants in the industry.
The racetrack will mark its 70th year in 2016, and RIR President Dennis Bickmeier said he is focused on what the “RIR of the future” will look like. But he said the studies will not mean a shift away from the auto races that have made the racetrack what it is. He continued:
Motorsports will always be our core; that’s what we do. But … we’ve got 1,000-plus acres.
Activities at RIR in addition to racing range from trade shows to triathlons. The track sees nearly 300 days of activity each year, he said.
Bickmeier said he told the consultants to focus on three key questions for any idea they consider:
What’s the business potential? Does it drive tourism? What benefit does it have for the community?
I didn’t want to steer them one way or another. I’m anxious to see what they come back with.
Bickmeier emphasised that the consultants’ report will be only a starting point for internal conversations at the raceway, saying:
It’s a really long runway, and we’re probably just revving our engine. We haven’t released the brakes yet.
The consultants’ reports are expected as soon as a couple of months from now, but there’s no clear timeline for an internal decision from RIR.
Bickmeier has met with the Richmond Flying Squirrels about their search for a new baseball stadium site, but he said the talks were “very exploratory”. He said the speedway gets along well with the Squirrels but that both groups are in the very earliest stages of planning.
Bryan Younge, Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield, said:
There will be different best uses for different parts of a property as big as the raceway’s. But the racetrack owns and abuts land in an area that could be ripe for development. We will work with local economic development officials and other groups.
Nate Appleman, Vice President at HOK, added:
We’re certainly really excited about it and really looking forward to the race this weekend to get to know on a more intimate level what sorts of things are happening there now and how we can improve them.
Bickmeier had pointed to recent, extensive redevelopment projects at Kansas Speedway and Daytona International Speedway in Florida, which, like RIR, are owned by International Speedway Corp.
The idea of redevelopment in the racetrack area catapulted into the spotlight after County Manager John A. Vithoulkas raised the idea in January, though conversations have been going on much longer.
County officials embraced the move, as Frank J. Thornton, Chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors (who also represents the Fairfield District, where RIR is located), commented:
I think it’s something that bodes well both for the county and for RIR.
Vithoulkas also praised the move and noted the county’s long history of working with the track:
We have been working closely with RIR for several years, and what I can tell you is that when Henrico County makes a commitment, it is for the long term.
HOK is just one of the industry-leading sports architecture firms participating in this month’s Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific event, being held at the Singapore Sports Hub, September 28-30.