The Village of South Jacksonville is planning to possibly re-up a tourism grant with one of Jacksonville’s biggest attractions.
Jacksonville Speedway operator Ken Dobson came to the Village Trustees proposing to re-up a tourism grant totaling $15,000 to help offset costs for advertisement and publicity for the racetrack. The Speedway previously received the amount in 2019. Dobson said last year held a lot of uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic, and he didn’t feel comfortable asking sponsors for money: “Honestly, in 2020 with COVID and everything, I didn’t reach out here. I knew that tourism was certainly struggling, and I didn’t reach out to a lot of our sponsors and advertisers. We just kind of limped through 2020 at the Speedway. We didn’t even get started until after July. We limited our capacity and followed the rules, limited ourselves to 500 people, and held 5 events that we could sort of make work under the circumstances. They worked out really well, as far as people being able to get out and participate safely in things outdoors. Last year, we kind of took a year off.”
Dobson is gearing up for one of the racetracks biggest events of the season with the World of Outlaws event tonight. Dobson was unsure if the event was still going to be held due to the rain today, but says he was trying his best to sell all of the tickets for the event. He told the Village Trustees that he has been in constant communication with Dale Bainter and the Morgan County Health Department. He says with limited capacity, he feels that the Speedway will still be able to cover most of the costs for tonight’s event. Dobson told the trustees that the World of Outlaws has the second biggest following in motorsports, second only to NASCAR. Dobson says he tries to hold the events in the middle of the week to accommodate the large number of race teams that come in from out of state.
Dobson says he personally comes to the village for support because many of the visiting drivers come to South Jacksonville’s hotels and motels rather than the city’s hotels. He says the village’s hotels are able to accommodate the size of the drivers’ racing trailers: “About half of our events are for racers and people coming from a distance. What we have discussed here and in the past is how [we promote] that there is more to Exit 64, our billboard, and getting people to choose to stay in South Jacksonville. Quite honestly there is nowhere else you can park a race rig. I feel like we do put heads in beds here. It’s the perfectly place for race fans and race teams.”
Dobson told the trustees that the Jacksonville Speedway is one of five national race tracks that are broadcast live on the popular motorsports streaming service for the World of Outlaws called DirtVision. He says that the racetrack hired a web designer and videographer this year at extra expense to help promote the track on DirtVision, and that they have used their promotional time on the streaming service to promote the city and the village as a destination for racing fans.
The trustees came to a consensus to put Dobson’s tourism grant application on the next board meeting agenda for Thursday, May 6th for consideration of approval.