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Dirt-track races to provide boost to tourism economy

Rob Sabo

Norm Dianda doesn’t expect to drive home truckloads of cash from the racetrack he’s developing in partnership with Lucas Oil just east of Sparks.

Instead, Dianda hopes that dirt-track racing provides an economic boost to Washoe County with the addition of yet another venue to the region’s special events calendar.

Dianda, the chairman of the board of Sparks-based Q&D Construction, and Lucas Oil are building a one-mile racetrack atop an old landfill on the north side of Interstate 80 at Mustang.

The venue could draw up to 10,000 people to the region for an inaugural race August 25-26.

Construction costs for the Wild West Motorsports Park, which will be split with Lucas Oil, are roughly $500,000, Dianda says. Q&D had been using the area to stage materials and equipment, and the site was used from the late 1960s to the 1980s to dump Washoe County’s trash before operations were moved to the south side of Interstate 80 at the Lockwood Regional Landfill.

A small dirt track, which was being used for racing small superlight trucks, also existed at the site. That was enough to prompt Lucas Oil to propose development of a full-scale racetrack with permanent grandstands for 4,500 fans. The expansion of facilities helps grow the sport and groom new drivers, says Alex Striler, director of sales and marketing for Lucas Off Road.

Lucas Oil, headquartered in Corona, Calif., operates a series of five truck-racing events, primarily at West Coast venues.

“We though that by putting an annual race in Reno we could create an event that people come to year after year and that could continue for many decades,” Striler says. “Our goal is to reach more eyeballs and have a larger geographical reach, as well as developing potential talent in the area.”

Lucas Oil will manage the facility and share a portion of track revenues from racing events with the Dianda family. Lucas Oil also draws revenue from television sponsorships.

The August event is expected to generate between 12 and 14 hours of television coverage and will be aired on CBS, CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, Speed Network and MAV TV, a channel owned by Lucas Oil.

Dianda says it probably will take several years to recoup the investment in the facility.

“This isn’t a money maker for us,” Dianda says. “This is really about taking a useless piece of property and recycling it. Maybe there will be other opportunities to put other types of sports events or concerts in the future. There are plenty of places to do exciting things up there.”

Dianda leases the land from Lockwood Investments. Construction of the venue and grading of the parking lot area should be completed the first week of August.

Lucas Oil has signed on Grand Sierra Resort and Silver Legacy Resort & Casino as host hotels. Dianda says though attendance at the event may be modest, the race will do its part to spur economic growth in the Truckee Meadows.

“It is going to be another Hot August Nights or an air race? No, but it will bring people to town,” Dianda says. “Our business is building roads and buildings. But our economy is so bad in northern Nevada that we have to do something to continually improve it. This creates another economic impact for northern Nevada for our tourism business, and the hotels, casinos and restaurants will have some benefit from this thing.

“We have got to continue to grow our economy, and these are the kinds of things that will bring people to town.”

Striler says the off-road truck races eventually could draw as many as 20,000 to 30,000 per day. Lucas Oil also would like to explore the opportunity to have racing under lights at night, he says.

Lucas Oil expects to bring a staff of 100 for roughly for four days during the event.

The company also seeks sponsorships for the inaugural event with local business, such as food vendors. (Contact Striler at alexstriler@lucasoil.com.)

“We would like this to be a Reno-based event with Reno companies that help support it,” he says. “This is an event where businesses can participate with consumers. Vendor row can be pretty fun.”