The story of High Plains Raceway is as unique as it is exciting. HPR is the only facility in the country which was conceived, financed, designed and built by a collection of amateur road racing clubs and their members. And the results are amazing! While most weekends will be used by the clubs who own HPR, the facility has remarkable potential beyond those club weekends. This is the history of how HPR came to be.
- How & Why HPR Came to be
- About CAMA
- Site Selection
- Design, Zoning, and Permitting
- The Results – An Incredible Circuit!
- Thanks to those who made it happen
How & Why HPR Came to be
The genesis of HPR was back in 2003 when the regional amateur racing clubs realized the days of their home track (the old Second Creek Raceway near Denver International Airport) were numbered. A serious effort was then launched and the CAMA (Colorado Amateur Motorsports Associates) entity was formed expressly for the job of creating a new track for the clubs.
As expected, Second Creek Raceway actually closed at the end of the 2005 race season. Compounding the loss of Second Creek was the closing, that same year, of two other facilities used by the clubs. Specifically Pikes Peak International Raceway and Mountain View were closed. And the Stapleton circuit was also no longer available. Clearly these closures severely compromised the racing opportunities for the regional amateur road racing clubs.
Consequently, the development of a new race facility took on additional urgency. There was a strong belief that a club sponsored, owned and operated motorsports facility for Denver and the Front Range was an essential to the future of amateur road racing in Colorado.
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What is CAMA? As mentioned above, CAMA is the entity created in 2003 by the group of five amateur clubs which were the majority users of Second Creek. These clubs are: Motorcycle Roadracing Association (MRA), Porsche Club of America, Rocky Mtn. Region (PCA-RMR), Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing (RMVR), the Colorado Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and the Multi-Car
Club Alliance (MCCA). The Multi-Car Club Alliance is a collective of eight other car clubs, specifically: the Alfa Romeo Club of Colorado; Audi Club; BMWCCA, Rocky Mountain Chapter; Colorado Exotic Car Association (CECA); Lotus Colorado; Mercedes Benz Club of America, Mile-High Section; Viper Club, Colorado Region; and the Z-Car Club of Colorado.
Each of the five clubs designate a working representative to CAMA. These representatives keep their respective club Boards informed about all CAMA decisions and provide guidance from their respective Boards to CAMA.
Predating CAMA, way back in 1994, the same clubs had formed Colorado Motorsports Council (CMC) which played a very important role in HPR’s ultimate success. In 1997, with a $100,000 collective investment (i.e. each of the five clubs provided $20,000), CMC was able to assume the lease of Second Creek. They also purchased some track assets from the previous lease holder and successfully operated Second Creek over the ensuing eight years. The land under Second Creek was never owned, but rather leased. That successful CMC effort kept the track open, maintained it, and in the process accumulated a substantial surplus over those years. That surplus became the seed capital for CAMA’s efforts to find and build a new track.
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Site Selection – The Site Near Byers is Perfect!
As it turned out, finding appropriate property for a race track was no small task. It had to be land which wasn’t subject to housing development encroachment, where the land was affordable, and it needed to have good highway access. Denver area amateur motorsports enthusiasts were all spoiled by Second Creek’s fantastic proximity near DIA. Probably 40 different parcels of varying viability were inspected or considered. However, only three were considered viable. During 2003-2005 two potential project sites reached the point of actually obtaining options on those properties. But . . . both of those were abandoned for various reasons. Aside from the delay in finding the final site, this may have been a blessing in disguise since the site ultimately chosen near Byers has so much going for it. For instance:
- First, HPR is only about 60 minutes from most Denver area locations (map).
- The land was reasonably priced and had excellent highway access.
- It is near a community (Byers) that really wants us.
- The site is 460 acres but the track uses only about half of the property. Thus there is plenty of room for future expansion.
- And most important, the HPR property has marvelous topography resulting in a circuit with very exciting elevation changes.
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The Next Big Step – Design, Zoning, and Permitting
Once the site was selected, an option to buy the property was obtained in May of 2006. Then specific track planning began in earnest. With input from a lot of sources, Bill Howard and his design firm, Plan West, forged ahead. Bill is an accomplished racer and was determined “to create a track which gives racers the sense of an adventure.” He succeeded!
But just having a plan and property under option did not yet make HPR a reality. Before HPR could be taken to the next level, it was necessary to first obtain appropriate zoning from Arapahoe County. That process began officially in late 2006. In addition to zoning issues, the actual permitting process (Use by Special Review or USR) had to be pursued. The USR application
was submitted to the County in August of 2007 after appropriate zoning had been obtained. Again Bill’s firm, Plan West, was instrumental in successfully overseeing both the zoning issues and the USR application with Arapahoe County.
Then came the great news – the last major regulatory hurdle was cleared in January of 2008 when the County’s final approvals were received. Think about it. Just one year and eight months after finding a site, HPR was designed and all the regulatory permits were completed. People familiar with building anything like this, let alone a race track, marvel at what was done in this short time.
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The Money – A Remarkable Achievement
In February of 2008 with the land, zoning, and permits now in hand, all that remained was to build it. Well actually, all that remained was to raise the necessary money. No small task. Keep in mind that HPR’s financing is virtually 100% from amateur race clubs and their members. With no big corporate sugar daddy or large private investors, HPR is a pure grassroots effort. As noted earlier the clubs wisely decided to roll over the Second Creek monies and to also supplement that with another $250,000. This meant HPR started with a very sizeable $850,000 initial cash down payment.
The next major component for raising capital was a loan program of $2,000,000 made available to “qualified” investors (an SEC term of law). About 40 such individuals, almost entirely racers, stepped up to subscribe to the loan program.
Then the Capital Campaign effort directed at individuals raised another $650,000 by the summer of 2008. Wow! Almost 1,000 individuals rose to the occasion and made “their” new club track happen. Yet another remarkable achievement!
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Construction – Seven Weeks of Magic
The fundraising effort reached the required $3.5 million in August of 2008. The contracts were signed and construction began.
Here’s another neat chapter in the history of HPR. In a mere seven weeks from the time contracts were signed, all the earth moving, soil preparation, and final asphalt “lifts” for the 2.5 mile track, the paddock and the access road were completed! This was two weeks faster than even the most optimistic projections.
Thanks go to both contractors, Winslow Construction and Premier Paving. They worked hand-in-hand with HPR and Steve Peterson (a club member and racer) whose paving expertise was equally important in meeting and exceeding the aggressive time line.
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The Results – An Incredible Circuit!
The results of all these efforts over the past five years are truly amazing! The track surface will cure over the winter and be ready for the full 2009 season. The initial phase (track, paddock and access road) cost approximately $3.5 million and was fully funded by the initial capital from the clubs, donations from members (Founding Contributors), donations from commercial enterprises (Founding Sponsors), and by participants in the lending program.
The great circuit is 2.5 miles long. It has high-speed elements. It has challenging turns. Given the huge acreage of the site, barrier walls are very distant from the track making for a safe club circuit. It can be run in four different configurations by leaving out certain segments. Plans (read $$$s) could even create counter-clockwise configurations.
But the real “beauty” of HPR is the marvelous rolling terrain. Racers generally agree that the most important feature of a memorable race track is elevation change – which HPR has in spades. The two major elevation drops (and then gains) rival any circuit in the United States. And while much of the track is on the rolling terrain, there is still adequate flat areas for a large comfortable paddock and support area. Life is good at HPR. Come enjoy it as soon as you can.
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The history of HPR would not be complete without special thanks to a lot of people. In the early days, CMC successfully rescued Second Creek and accumulated a surplus which eventually served as the initial HPR seed money from the clubs. That would not have happened without efforts by:
- John Arnold, CMC
- Dennie Burke, MRA
- Jim Christian, SCCA
- Todd Eyster, MCC
- Chick Misura, PCA
- John Obialero, RMVR
- Jerry Schouten, PCA
Then in most recent years the hardworking representatives to CAMA have devoted more man hours, expertise, self-sacrifice, and effort than anyone can ever imagine:
- Glenn Conser, MRA
- Bob Darcey, RMVR
- Walter Fricke, PCA
- Bill Kephart, SCCA
- Kyle Popejoy, MCCA
And equally important there are those outstanding individuals who have contributed significant pro-bono professional services without which HPR would not have become a reality:
- Gary Bute (SCCA): Electrical design
- John Copple, Sanborn Map Company, Inc. Aerial imagery and the LiDAR survey
- Rick Goncalves (PCA), RG Consulting Engineers, Inc. Civil engineering
- Bill Howard, Plan West Inc. (RMVR): Planning, design and permitting of HPR
- Tom Ragonetti, Otten, Johnson, Robinson, Neff & Ragonetti: Legal services
- Charlie Thompson, Power Products, Inc. (SCCA): CAMA’s General Manager 2003-2008
And most important, there is the support of all the individual members and racers who have contributed not only cash, but countless hours of volunteer time to bring HPR to fruition.
Thanks and congratulations to all.
A unique and exciting story indeed!
High Plains Raceway Is A Reality
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