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Another Letter to the Editor about Upper Iowa Speedway races

Posted: Mon, Jul 8, 2013 7:42 PM

Jeremy Johnson of Decorah has e-mailed a Letter to the Editor, addressed to the people who stand opposed to the races: 

It seems to me you are missing the big picture regarding races on Saturday night in Decorah. Do you think that the races are attended by only middle aged men?  No, on a weekly basis you can find all different kinds of people.  Whether it is a group of high school aged friends just looking for some entertainment or an elderly couple attending for no other reason than the plain fact that they have just been doing it for years.  How about the college aged kids that just want to do something different?  Or the younger kids that are dropped off by their parents because they trust that their kids will be safe there. And perhaps the biggest group are families that attend every week because that's just what they do and their idea of a great Saturday night.

Attendance is just not limited to the stands.  There are a number of people that accompany each race team in the pits.  There are countless father and son race teams and even father and daughter race teams. The plain fact is that racing in Decorah on Saturday nights brings family and friends together.  People don't attend the races to make your life miserable on Saturday nights.  They attend to cheer on a member of their family or a friend,  they attend to see family and friends,  they attend because that is the way they prefer to spend there Saturday nights.  That sounds like a community event worth keeping.

What about the community benefit that comes from the races?  Drive by the gas stations in town an hour or so before the races start and you will see people spending money.  Whether it's on gas, snacks, or refreshments.  Drive through downtown after they are over on a Saturday night.  People go out to eat all over town once again spending money.  All this money being spent is all sales tax revenue for the city and customers our businesses would otherwise not see.  Drivers come from all over to race in Decorah and bring with them family and friends.  Drivers come from towns in Iowa like New Hampton, Waukon, Cresco, West Union, Fayette, Elkader, Lansing, Monona, Waterville, Sumner, Clermont, Elgin, Postville and Ionia.  They also come out of towns in Minnesota like Spring Grove, Caledonia, Oakdale, Harmony, Lanesboro, Chatfield, Rushford, Peterson, Rollingstone, Winona, and Houston.  They even come down from LaCrosse.   And that's just the weekly drivers! That's not counting a special race when drivers, fans, and family from all over the United States come to Decorah.  Where would you rather have all those people spend their time and money?  Some other town or our town? So our economy can benefit from the races.   Locals are always saying, shop Decorah.  You would choose to tell those that voluntarily come here that we only want you here if it's on our terms.  What message does that send?  Shop Decorah but stay quiet and only come during the week days 9-5. Maybe certain people who complain the loudest should spend their time on Saturday nights with their store open so people could shop there later.                                                      

Look through a race program or at the billboards around the race track.  Numerous businesses know it is beneficial to advertise at the races.  I think that is a big statement from the businesses on the impact that the fans from near and far can have on our local economy.

I also would like to think that most people in town are not opposed to the Winneshiek County Fair.  Approach the fair board and ask them just how much money they earn toward their budget every year from the races.  I would bet that their weekly beverage sales are a major source of income for them.  Every week they sell 50/50 draw tickets and keep half of the money for grounds improvements.  The other half goes toward a lucky winner in the stands and no doubt helps them out.   Also ask them just how many fair buttons they think they would sell if there were no races.

What about the Decorah Lions Club?  Every week they get the opportunity to sell popcorn to a average grandstand crowd of 800 people.  Tell me where else in this town would they get that opportunity?  And I think we can all agree that a great organization like the Lions that gives back to the community should not  miss that opportunity.
On an average night between the grandstand and the pits the races draw a safe estimate of 1,000 people.  It is reasonable to say that between admission, food, gas, beverages, and purchases at other stores that each person spends an average of let say $20, easy.  Take that $20 x 1000 people and that's $20,000 (minimum) pumped into our local economy each race night.  I would like one of you anti-race track people to tell me what other event could bring that kind of money to Decorah on a weekly basis in the summer.

It bothers me we are even having this discussion.  It is pretty depressing seeing a race track sitting unused.  Take Cresco for example, they no longer have weekly races in that town anymore.  I would guess that a good majority of people in that town wished they still had a little noise for just that one night a week.   The businesses in that town most likely wish they had those fans and drivers stopping by their stores that one night a week.

The races have been in Decorah for a long time.  It is a shame that every couple of years somebody in town has to stir the pot and come down on them.  People have been attending the races consistently for years.  At a time when more and more race tracks are closing, ours draws consistent numbers.  It is just plain selfish to complain about something that so many enjoy and benefit from and so few are opposed to.  It is on average about 16-20 nights a year.  For all of 4 hours a night.  Such a small amount of time each summer.  Its a shame that some are so petty and intolerant they would stop a great local event for a few hours of "quite time".

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