If there’s one thing A.J. Moore wants you to know about Lake Erie Speedway, it’s this: “We’re still here.”
After the Greenfield Township facility stopped offering weekly racing in 2015, some people thought the business closed, Moore says. But that’s not the case: It merely shifted gears and changed its business model.
Now, Lake Erie Speedway operates as a special-events venue, offering a broader array of entertainment options – yes, including some auto racing.
The past few seasons have included successful ventures like Crash-A-Rama and Monster Truck events, as well as the recent Nitro Circus and Lantern Fest events.
The decision to take the racetrack in a different direction proved to be a good one, Moore says – both for the business and for the overall community.
The numbers alone bear that out:
During Crash-A-Rama and Monster Truck events, only about 60 percent of Lake Erie Speedway’s patrons come from Pennsylvania, Moore says – the rest come from neighboring states to spend their entertainment dollars here.
The Nitro Circus event in August filled the grandstand with 4,000 fans. Last weekend’s Lantern Fest drew 5,000 visitors – some driving seven or eight hours to get here.
Many of those visitors end up supporting other local businesses, including restaurants and hotels, Moore points out. Last year’s Lantern Fest, which drew 3,000 fans, used about 600 hotel rooms, he says.
It’s part of Lake Erie Speedway’s goal to become a destination in the broader community.
“We try to bring in events that help the economy and help keep people employed,” he says.
Though the 2017 season is wrapping up, there are still a few big events coming up.
On Sept. 9, the National Fireworks Association will take a break from their annual expo (held at the Bayfront Convention Center) to offer a two-hour public fireworks display, set to music, at Lake Erie Speedway.
And on Sept. 29-30, the season will close with the 67th annual Race of Champions, which features 100 to 125 cars in a weekend of racing. The race – the second longest consecutive auto-racing event in North America, second only to the Indy 500 – promises to bring yet another crowd to the grandstand at Lake Erie Speedway.
With events like that, it should be increasingly clear that Lake Erie Speedway is still in business. “We’re alive and well,” Moore says. “We’re still doing our best to bring big events to the community.”
About Lake Erie Speedway: As the name implies, the Speedway got its start in auto racing, holding weekly races on its 3/8-mile asphalt track. On an event day, the facility employs about 50 people part-time. Moore, as the operations manager, is the only full-time employee. As an outdoor venue, Lake Erie Speedway closes for the winter, leaving its operations to the summer season. “We only have 90 days to do what we want to do,” Moore says.
Why Erie County: Lake Erie Speedway has found valuable support from the Erie County community, particularly from the Erie Sports Commission, Moore says. The Commission has helped Lake Erie Speedway not just bring in events, but to bring in a variety of events that help to diversify the pool of patrons.
Challenges of Erie County: The weather is a notable challenge for the outdoor venue. But another challenge – competition – is almost a good thing, Moore says. Lake Erie Speedway doesn’t schedule events that would compete with other area festivals, including Roar on the Shore and Discover Presque Isle. But, as Moore says, “Erie’s not a place that doesn’t have stuff to do.” In the summertime, that means Lake Erie Speedway is competing for entertainment dollars with church festivals, beaches, free concerts, fairs and more. “There’s a lot to do. There’s plenty to go around, as long as people go out and do it,” Moore says.
Fun fact: Lake Erie Speedway has 1,396 parking spaces, with more room to park in surrounding fields.