Mitime Investment Group (Mitime) is still committed to acquiring and running Miller Motorsports Park (MMP) as a racing and educational facility as soon as possible, in spite of a recent legal setback.
That’s the word from Mitime President Alan Wilson, who spoke to Roadracingworld.com on Tuesday, December 22, just days after his company’s purchase of the 511-acre racetrack was voided by a judge’s decision in a lawsuit.
“Nothing has changed from our perspective other than the way we get there,” said Wilson, the man who designed MMP, oversaw its construction and ran it during its first three years of operation.
The lawsuit was filed by Andrew Cartwright’s Center Point Management, a losing bidder. The lawsuit alleged that Tooele County (Utah) violated local and state laws when it sold MMP, which is considered public land, to Mitime for less than fair market value.
Mitime’s winning bid was for $20 million while Cartwright’s company had bid $22.5 million, according to court filings.
One of the reasons Tooele County chose the lower Mitime bid was because of the company’s proposed plans to continue operating MMP as a racetrack and to expand it with significant racing training and manufacturing programs, which the county hoped would continue to have a positive economic impact on the community.
Center Point Management, meanwhile, would not commit in writing to continue operating MMP as a racing facility and instead planned to build and sell houses – possibly as many as 200 — on the racetrack property, according to Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne.
Asked if Center Point Management’s bid included continuing racing operations for the foreseeable future at MMP, Milne told Roadracingworld.com, “No, and that was part of our concern. They would not intimate anything in writing beyond generalities, which we perceived to be the possibility of cloistering the track, making it an operable track for a country club type of model but not necessarily the tourism draw that our local economy has become accustomed to. So that was a concern for us.
“There were a number of concerns. The trial has been public, so I can refer to things that I stated in my testimony on the stand. We made our determination out of the top two proposals based on and predicated with these three criteria: It was the type of development, the credibility of the suitor and the viability of their proposal. And as I testified, for me at least, out of three decision makers, three policy makers that County Commissioners are, for me at least I cannot remove one from the other two and say it alone was more important. For me the balance of the type of development, the credibility of the suitor and the viability of their proposal were all equal in my mind as I made the decision.”
Tooele County accepted Mitime’s bid in August 2015, but Center Point Management sued less than a month later. The lawsuit was heard in November, and on December 17 Third District Judge Robert Adkins ruled in Center Point Management’s favor and voided the sale of the property to Mitime.
This ruling forces Tooele County to restart the months-long process of selling MMP, a process that Mitime can and will participate in.
The big problem with that is MMP’s season starts in about four to five months, and before it starts MMP must have staff and equipment in place, and before that, events and track rentals must be contracted between MMP’s owners/managers and event organizers and renters.
Although it didn’t plan to take possession of MMP (which it planned to rename Utah Motorsports Campus) until January 1, 2016, Mitime had been busy since its purchase was approved by Tooele County investing hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring staff, buying equipment, drawing up plans for improvements and additions, and securing deals with most of MMP’s major racing event organizers including MotoAmerica.
The good news for racing fans and stakeholders is that Mitime is still committed to acquiring, running and expanding MMP even if they have to do so under a temporary agreement during the new official bidding process.
“Nothing has changed from our perspective other than the way we get there,” said Wilson. “We’re now being made to jump through another whole set of hoops. We’re going back to ground one. We’re trying to minimize the damage that may have been caused by this. We can’t criticize it because it’s the court. It doesn’t make sense to criticize the court. We just have to suck it up and get on with it, and we have every intention to carry out all of the promises we ever said. And we’ve had that reconfirmed two or three times by our Chinese owners while this has all been going on, and as recently as this morning. We just have to work with the system to make it happen and hopefully we can be in the position on January 1 to assume responsibility for managing it.
“The key thing is for everyone to maintain confidence. I know it’s difficult. I know that we’re all at risk. But fortunately, there is no racing for the next two months because we’re not Daytona. The reality is it will be resolved. I’ll put money on it. I just can’t tell you the precise way it’s going to be resolved.”