New Private Club Race Track

New Private Club Race Track

The car track being built along Highway 18 in North Cowichan is expected to be complete in the spring of 2016. It will offer a private, membership-based access to individuals to drive high end cars on the track. The club will offer garage storage, mechanical services, as well as a high-end club­house with a full-service restaurant.

According the North Cowichan Municipality website a building permit was applied for July 22, 2015 in the value of $3.2 Million for “… THE COMPLETION OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN INDUSTRIAL BUILDING.” The notes indicate a foundation permit has been issued but no official permit for the building has been issued at this time.

The main site encompasses some 60 acres purchased from the Municipality of North Cowichan (MNC). Sources indicate a further adjoining 60 acres have also been purchased by the same owners. At press time, we are awaiting inquiries about the circumstances of the sale. We have reported that the deal was reached after some months of closed-door negotiations between the municipality and the owners and will report details as we get them.

The track, according to the permit application, is being built by Chris Erb and the owner is listed as 1909988 Ontario Limited. It has been widely reported that the track is being built and will be owned and operated by a consortium of auto dealers in Victoria. The stated plan, like other clubs of its type is to have a limited number of members who will have exclusive access to the track.

A survey of similar clubs across North America reveals a trend of high joining fees, annual club fees, plus track costs. Typical initiation fees range from the $30,000 to well over $100,000. Annual fees are typically in the $500 to $1,000 per month range, and then extras, such as track time, mechanical services, garaging fees, and hospitality minimums at lounges and restaurants are additional. Add in the cost of a high end performance car and, in all, the total charges indicate that one needs to have significant disposable wealth to participate in the exclusive track experience.

For example, at the Aspen Racing and Sports Car Club in Woody Creek, Colo. they have an an initial fee of $75,000 and member dues are $12,000 per year. The track distance is a 1.1 mile eight­turn road course. The membership fees buy equity in the 50­acre property and each member must also purchase a $40,000 Toyota spec racer.

Another club, the Monticello Motor Club near Monticello, N.Y. is limited to 500 members. With a four mile 22­turn road course track that has over a mile of straight­aways, it reasonably resembles the track proposed for Cowichan. The Monticello Club has an initiation fee of $125,000 and member dues of $7,500 per year. Amenities include a spa, luxury suites, helipad, fitness center, valet service, exotics fleet, bar/lounge, restaurant, and a pro shop. Plans are in place to build trackside luxury condos and an on­site tuning center.

Perhaps the luxury condos that are part of the Monticello Club are an indication of the direction for the local facility. Sources have indicated the owners are interested in or have purchased the adjoining 60 acre property from the municipality. With trackside condos, the development would resemble many high­end golf course developments where the well­off retired can pursue their hobby while enjoying a retirement lifestyle.

One criticism that has been leveled at the proving track concept is the environmental footprint, or at least the promotion of a carbon­intensive lifestyle. Of course, sporadic use of the race track by some of the 300 hundred or so proposed members and the laying of a few miles of asphalt won’t significantly add to carbon footprint, but the suggestion that members will be jetting from other cities, driving up from Victoria, before driving the track, adds considerably to the carbon intensive nature of the hobby. It sends the wrong image, according to some.

The owners have stated in their outlook that this will be a members only track. They expect that those members will jet in, stay in Victoria, and then drive up to the track for a day of driving before heading back home. To attract members, they will have to compete with several dozen such clubs across North America, some near attractive resort towns such as Las Vegas and others near metropolitan hot­spots such as New York City. To some, it seems a stretch to consider that the kinds of people who have the money and the desire for speed that a private race track membership implies may prefer higher octane surroundings before and after their driving experience, such as LAs Vegas, or New York. Even so, if the local club manages to attract the required members, the question is how much money will they spend in North Cowichan. It would seem, given the descriptions, perhaps not much.

As well, a similar facility is being built and is expected to complete in the spring of 2016 in the Okanagan near Osoyoos. The Okanagan is an attractive vacation spot in B.C with great lakes and resort style summer weather. In the heart of wine country, and an easy fly­in or drive north for U.S. members, this may prove stiff competition for the same elusive millionaire­class car hobbyists for the local facility.

On the plus side, municipal tax revenue from such a facility will add money to municipal coffers. However, this may be less than expected, given that the municipality has a ten-year tax-free policy for new businesses. Under that scenario, tax revenues would be zero for the next ten years. And, while it seems unlikely, it remains to be seen if the current VW troubles with cheating on emissions testing, which may also extend to BMW, will spread to other automakers and may have some impact upon the viability of the facility sponsored by dealers of those same brands.

It seems likely that Valley car buffs won’t get much chance to be part if having a world class driving track in their backyard. We will all, however, hear the whine of high­end cars making their way around the track should we venture onto highway 18, perhaps on our way to the recycling center.

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