Route 66’s Future In Jeopardy? City of Joliet Leaders Say Otherwise

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Route 66's Future In Jeopardy? City of Joliet Leaders Say Otherwise


Following reports issued over the weekend regarding the future of the NASCAR-owned Chicagoland Speedway, its neighboring sister property, the Route 66 Raceway, has likewise fallen into the crosshairs of the rumor mill.

The reports center on an April 16, 2020 planning commission meeting by the city of Joliet, Illinois in which an agenda was tabled regarding the possible subdividing of the 1.5-mile speedway. These reports came complete with maps of the property purported to contain the proposed division of the property for construction of warehouses. It was announced last week that Chicagoland would lose its lucrative 2020 NASCAR Cup Series date as a result of schedule realignments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Add in that NASCAR has specifically named and expressed verbal interest in a downtown street course in Chicago, and you have plenty of fuel for the fire under this rumor.

The adjacent Route 66 Raceway, which has, most prominently, hosted the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series since 1998, is also owned by NASCAR Holdings Inc. (the private subsidiary acquired the publicly-traded International Speedway Corporation on October 18, 2019), drawing the curiosity of the drag racing community on its involvement in the rumored demolition of the speedway.

Last week, the Route 66 Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway, which share a unified staff, dismissed a number of employees; what we do know is that Route 66 track president Scott Paddock and other members of the staff assigned to the dragstrip remain in place.

It should be noted that at no point in the agenda was repurposing of the Route 66 Raceway presented.

The Joliet Plan Commission, at the center of this story, in direct response to a stream of calls to its offices on Monday, issued a statement clarifying the agenda proposed by Chicagoland Speedway LLC and its parent company. In it, interim city manager Steve Jones noted:

At its meeting on April 16, 2020, the Joliet Plan Commission considered a request by Hillwood Investment Properties (Hillwood) to subdivide a portion of the existing Chicagoland Speedway property, approximately 82.3 acres, for purchase from Chicagoland Speedway, LLC. At the request of the applicant, the Plan Commission voted to table the subdivision request to their meeting on July 16. Under the proposal, the 82.3 acres which is presently used as overflow parking would be developed with future industrial warehouses. Chicagoland Speedway, LLC would continue to own the remaining balance of racetrack property and no portion of the racing oval would be impacted. The July 16 Plan Commission will be broadcast live on the City’s web page for those who wish to follow the status of the proposal. Following the vote by the Plan Commission, the matter will move to the City Council for consideration at a future meeting.

There may have been some public confusion and misinformation about the Chicagoland Speedway being sold, as some of the maps and other supporting documents in the Plan Commission packet show that a portion of the proposed subdivision would include a portion of the racetrack. The City’s Subdivision Regulations require that preliminary plats shall include all contiguous holdings of land in the same ownership, accompanied by an affidavit of ownership, which shall include the dates that the respective holdings of land were acquired, together with the land records, reference number, and the recorder’s number of each conveyance to the present owner as recorded in the County Recorder of Deed’s Office. Therefore, the proposed preliminary plat which includes approximately 423 acres, is simply the overall land area that would be subdivided for the proposed land sale. Only the proposed final plat and recording plats, which include the 82.3 acres to be sold, is the land area that would be developed with industrial warehouses.

Mike Schwartz, the Director of Planning for the city of Joliet, confirmed to DRAGZINE that the proposal will have no impact on the Chicagoland Speedway or Route 66 Raceway.

The Route 66 NHRA Nationals, originally scheduled to be run July 9-12, remains part of the NHRA’s reconfigured schedule for the second half of 2020; several reports suggest it will be contested in late August.

Paddock responded to a request for comment on Tuesday, saying, “I’m not sure I can add anything beyond the information [already published].” Paddock went on to cite a March 18, 2020 announcement wherein NASCAR and Hillwood made public an agreement to repurpose or redevelop surplus land at its 13 racing properties around the country. The release states:

NASCAR and Hillwood, a Perot Company, announced today their exclusive arrangement to improve the value of NASCAR’s vast real estate portfolio through the repositioning or redevelopment of surplus land at its existing motorsports facilities across the U.S.  

With initial plans to explore 13 markets nationwide, NASCAR will utilize Hillwood’s full-service integrated approach to offer perspective across asset classes for every facility site, considering land not currently being utilized. The goal will be to create jobs and increase wealth in the communities where NASCAR operates. 

“We engaged Hillwood, a well-capitalized privately-owned firm, due to their established record of successful partnerships to develop transformational projects that add value,” stated Lesa Kennedy, Executive Vice Chair, NASCAR. “Together, we can simultaneously improve the experiences of our guests and the lives of local residents where we operate through quality real estate projects.”

Ross Perot Jr., Chairman of Hillwood, remarked, “We are honored to work with such a long-established company and brand as NASCAR. This is a great alignment of interests – Hillwood has one of the largest land banks of industrial property in the U.S., and NASCAR’s land portfolio will add numerous new locations that can immediately meet many of our customers’ new facility requirements.” 

John Magness, a 20-year executive with Hillwood, will work closely with Hillwood’s seven regional offices across the U.S. to uncover the highest and best uses for the surplus property connected to select motorsports facilities while engaging with the communities on a successful redevelopment strategy.   

DRAGZINE will follow up with additional information as it becomes available.



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