Back to the drawing board: Schatz wants to rekindle speedway negotiations
Race fans, cross your fingers - you may yet get the chance to see thrills and spills at the Red River Valley Speedway this summer.
That is, if Danny Schatz and the Red River Valley Fair board can come to terms.
Schatz, a Fargo-area businessman who had been negotiating a lease for the race track since October, rescinded his offer in early February. The news sent shockwaves through the racing community, and RRVF board members received the brunt of the backlash.
A week later, however, a Schatz representative contacted the board to say they were prepared to come back to the table. RRVF General Manager Bryan Schulz received the phone call.
"I told them, what I need from you is a letter stating that (you want to reopen negotiations)," Schulz said. "At 5 p.m., all of a sudden we get the fax."
The letter from Ivan Sailer, who represents Schatz, said Valley Racing Inc. would like to sit down with Schulz and the RRVF board to "work out the small differences in the lease."
"I believe they can be worked out so both sides are happy," the statement said.
Before Schatz ended negotiations, things had been going smoothly, for the most part.
"When I talked to Ivan, it was just coming together on dates to use the facility," Schulz said.
That's when negotiations hit a snag. In the original contract of 20 race days for $20,000, there was a stipulation that Schatz wouldn't run races during already scheduled RRVF events. The final straw came down to one of the RRVF's largest events of the year: Big Iron. Schatz said he wanted to schedule a race during the farm show, and Schulz said that wasn't possible.
So Schatz pulled his offer and any hope for summer racing at the speedway was gone. Now, however, there is a chance for both sides to work things out, something Schulz hopes will happen.
"The deciding factor will be coordinating the time they want to use the facility, so we're both on the same page," he said.
Schulz also said the backlash he and the board received from the public was unwarranted.
"Back in the September-October timeframe, it says right there in the minutes of the board meeting that we weren't going to be running the speedway this year," he said. "Then Danny Schatz comes in and everyone is happy he's taking it over. ...
"But when it didn't happen, all of a sudden it's our black eye for some reason."
Schulz said Schatz is the perfect person to take control of the speedway. Schatz, an avid race fan, is the father of World of Outlaws driver Donny Schatz. He also now has a vested interest in the track after he claimed to have spent more than $40,000 to renovate and shorten the dirt oval.
RRVF decided not to run the track this year after another failed season of racing last summer. The speedway had been hosting races for 42 years.
If both sides can come to terms, hopefully the speedway can stay a summertime attraction for many years to come.