Speedway mom starts petition drive
PUNTA GORDA — Sandi Bridges says she watched her 22-year-old son “grow as a man” while racing his Pro Four car at the Punta Gorda Speedway over the past two years.
And she doesn’t want that opportunity to vanish for other families if the speedway’s owner, Kevin Williams, and the Charlotte County Airport Authority can’t come to an agreement to renew the speedway’s lease.
So Bridges announced Friday that she’ll be launching a petition drive urging the authority to extend the lease. She’ll begin at 3 p.m. today by asking race drivers at the speedway to sign.
Other volunteers are planning to canvass nearby gas stations and hotels for signatures “because they’re all going to be affected by this,” she said.
“I’m heading this up because I don’t want to see (the track) closed,” she said. “I don’t understand why they’re having such a hard time coming to an agreement over the rent with Kevin. We want it resolved.”
The problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration has mandated that airport property may be leased or sold only at fair market value, or the airport could lose federal funding, according to Gary Quill, authority executive director. Also, the speedway’s fair market value is difficult to calculate because land values have been in flux, Quill has said.
Based on the Cheney Brothers food company’s recent acquisition of airport land, the speedway should pay some $10,000 per month, Quill has suggested. Williams, who currently pays $3,864 per month, flatly rejected that offer, however.
Williams, in a December letter, advised authority staffers the speedway would not pay more than $5,000 per month, including sales tax.
The authority decided to go out for bids with $5,000 as a minimum in order to win the FAA’s approval.
Williams opposes going out for bids. He argues that a clause in his lease gives him the right to lease the property for another three years at fair market value. He has demanded the authority set that value.
Bridges said she wants to remind the authority what the speedway means to families and the local economy. Some drivers travel from across the state to race here, she said. The track provides an activity for “children of all ages,” she added.
“I can’t believe that they would rather have an empty piece of land,” she said.