THUNDER BAY - Stock-car races could be coming to Oliver-Paipoonge as early as next spring as a race track that has been seven years in the making begins to take shape.
“It feels really good. When we first started, they said you can’t do that, you can’t put a race track in a swamp. But we did. It feels great,” said Richard Schutte, owner of the Thunder Valley Development Race site.
“I was an old racer from years and years ago. It was a good time and something I loved to do and I thought nobody is doing this and couldn’t get it done. I went through a lot of different hoops trying to get something to work and this is a good location here.”
The site is located behind the Oliver-Paipoonge municipal office on Highway 130. Recently, Richard Schutte Holdings, Louie and Norm Nadin, and Dairy Queen Franchises, with Schutte owning both local Dairy Queen restaurants, approved a multi-year sponsorship of the track, which will be named the Dairy Queen International Speedway.
“We’ve been at this for seven years now,” Schutte said. “This was a swamp when we first started. We are almost at a point where we can put the barriers around the perimeter and put the clay on it.”
According to Schutte, he has brought in more than 3,000 loads of fill. The track is starting to take shape and concrete barriers are being made on site and will be put in place around the track in the coming weeks. Parking lots, grandstands, and an announcer booth will also be constructed.
Schutte was hoping to see cars taking to the track this fall, but realistically he thinks the grand opening will take place next spring.
The only other track in the area is the Mosquito Speedway but races are only held once a year. Schutte said the by-law permits him to host races on Wednesday, with Thursday being a rain date, and an annual two-day race on a weekend.
The property behind the Oliver-Paipoonge municipal office was already zoned for racing because of a go-cart track that used to be behind the building and Schutte said the cars will use mufflers to reduce noise and compounds will be added to the track to reduce dust.
Schutte estimates the cost of building the race track is approximately $1.5 million, but he believes it is worth it because he believes it will draw in racing and car enthusiasts from across the region and the United States.
“Everybody has been calling and has been calling for the last seven years saying this is what we want, we want you to do this,” Schutte said. “We get the odd person that will be against it, but not very many.”