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Schatz ends Speedway negotiations; No summer races planned at RRVF

So much for burning rubber and checkered flags at the Red River Valley Speedway.

What once looked like a promising partnership between the Red River Valley Fair Association and businessman Danny Schatz, now has come undone.

As of Saturday, Feb. 13, Schatz rescinded his offer to lease the racetrack for three years, and so far the RRVF has no intention of holding weekly races this summer.

"The Red River Valley Fair Association deeply regrets that an amicable agreement could not be reached," RRVF General Manager Bryan Schulz wrote Saturday in a press release.

The decision by Schatz to pull out from negotiations, ongoing since September, took everyone by surprise, Schulz said. Reasoning behind Schatz's decision seems mainly to have stemmed from contract language in place since the beginning regarding race days.

"We had many meetings where the original contract said 20 days for $20,000, plus expenses of utilities and things like that," Schulz said. "We had all that put together; as long as (races) didn't interfere with events that already were planned, it was OK."

Schulz said Schatz then decided he wanted to run a race during the Big Iron Farm Show, which went against the contract. Big Iron is one of the Fair's biggest events, drawing around 70,000 attendees during a three-day stretch.

"Then he said he wasn't going to pay for utilities," Schulz said. "So we said, 'Cover May to August and we'll pick up after that.'"

Apparently Schatz wasn't impressed.

"At 6:30 on Saturday I got an e-mail from Schatz saying he was out," Schulz said. "As far as I'm concerned, there are chances to make this run, but Danny wants the facility 24/7/365, and we can't do that. That wasn't in the original contract."

What made Schatz such an appealing person to take over the floundering speedway were his Fargo-area connections and his love for racing. Schatz owns truck stops in Fargo and Minot, and his son, Donny Schatz, races with the World of Outlaws sprint car series.

Schatz apparently already sunk between $40,000-$50,000 in the track, which mainly went to cover engineering costs accrued from his plan to shorten the track from a half-mile to a three-eighths mile oval. That's what makes him pulling out so surprising, Schulz said, because he had a vested interest in the track even though the contracts weren't finished.

Fans and drivers probably will have to look elsewhere to fill their racing needs.

"We have drivers who've already spent thousands of dollars on new chassis for their cars," he said. "Schatz is the one who shut the door, we never did."

RRVF first looked at leasing the speedway in September after another season of lower-than expected revenue and a net loss of tens of thousands of dollars. It was either close the speedway for good or hand over the reins.

Schatz first stepped forward as an interested party in late September, and the RRVF board voted Nov. 17 in favor of his three-year lease proposal.

Now, the board has decided it needs to move forward, Schulz said, but he would welcome talking with Schatz again if the businessman were to change his mind.

"I'd say, 'First, let's all get on the same page,'" he said. "Then we'll go from there."