Sheyenne Speedway in many ways isn’t recognizable from when I started going weekly years ago. So many changes have been made to turn the 1/4-mile oval it’s hard to list them all. But they’ve all been for the better and have really improved the look to the track and the racing surface.
The new pit wall and stands have really cleaned up the backstretch area. The new dirt over the past two offseasons has helped improve the racing surface. The front stretch wall, which has been extended into turn one, helps the overall look of the track. Many, many hours of volunteer time by many individuals have made a huge difference. For the Dirt — We Back the Track in Lisbon has also helped invest in these improvements (for example a new sound system last year).
The growth is reflected in weekly car counts. The track averaged 93 cars this year and that included double-digits in each weekly class.
But right now there’s a ceiling at Sheyenne because of facility limitations. For the track to grow further as co-promoters Benji Froemke and Hunter Carter would like, some updates are needed. The next step in the growth will take some heavy lifting financially and that may lie in a larger with the Ransom County Fair Board and/or county board.
I’d look at such larger financial commitments as an investment, not just for the track, but the community of Lisbon and Ransom County as a whole. Because the track brings people to town from outside the community. They stop to eat before the races or at gas stations afterwards. Subway in Lisbon, for example, is open until 10 p.m. on Sunday nights. Racing is usually done around 9-9:30 which gives people time to grab a sandwich on the way home.
This is how I see it as fan who’s been a regular at Sheyenne Speedway the past three years. A new, larger grandstand, with the potential for a couple of enclosed boxes for sponsors or VIPs, is needed. Right now the size of the grandstand limits what type of events can be held there. For example, you really can’t hold a late model challenge series race or USMTS show or even something bigger like a World of Outlaw sprint show there. You need more seating capacity plain and simple. Right now to hold a bigger event the ticket prices would have to be through the roof. Like I said, there's a ceiling as to where Sheyenne can grow without some major upgrades.
More seating would even help bring NOSA Sprint or NLRA Late Model shows to town more often. Or help bring bigger crowds for the Steffes Street Stock tour. Or even help bring the A mods to town more often. Simply it would increase revenue. Remember, everyone that works at Sheyenne weekly is a volunteer.
A new grandstand could also house a new concession stand underneath and perhaps even new bathrooms. Both are needed. The concession people at Sheyenne bust their tails with not an ideal area to work, I can imagine what could be done with a new building.
The other glaring need to me is new lighting. The current system is outdated and parts of the track, frankly, seem dark once the sun goes down. New lighting would do wonders. If you go to tracks with good lighting compared to ones with less lighting, you can tell a noticeable difference.
I realize that in today’s world this can’t all happen overnight because it will cost money and that county budgets, especially in rural are limited. And with the Covid-19 virus impacting the economy that will create uncertainty. I get all of those things. But as I said look at this as an investment into the future at Sheyenne — something that makes the track viable 5-10 years or more down the road. Perhaps some of the money could be raised privately for such upgrades.
The other option would be is to sell the racetrack to a private group and let them run with the improvements. This was done in Jackson, Minn., and that place has been completely overhauled — new seating, skyboxes, etc. Now it’s become, during a non-Covid year, a premier facility in that region. It’s not as far-fetched an option as you might think.
In any case, the challenges faced by Sheyenne because of its progress provide some great opportunities to further that growth. Which would be good for Ransom County and Lisbon in the long term, too.
The next step by the local officials and boards is a big one to help racing continue to grow. It's time to look at raising that ceiling.