Dream of county fair track revs up debate

• Dayton man would love to  develop, lease quarter-mile track in Elk River or Becker


by Jim Boyle


A 64-year-old Dayton man has aspirations of developing a quarter-mile race track at the Sherburne County Fair, something he’d pursue equally in Elk River or Becker.

He’s just waiting for the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners and the Sherburne County Fair Board to commit to a plan for the future.

Bill Loehr’s interest in auto racing dates back to his childhood, growing up in Morris, Minnesota.

There was a track there and his father would scoop him up as a small boy and bring him to the races. When they moved to the cities, he took in the action at Raceway Park in Shakopee.

Loehr, a transit bus driver who has lived in Dayton for 20-plus years, has never raced. He has, however, always found ways to touch the sport, whether it was sending out press releases for the Princeton Speedway as young man or scouting out land to develop his own raceway.

He even tried his hand at operating a track in St. Charles in Winona County for a time, but the 130-mile trek from Dayton to St. Charles in the middle of the week each week proved to be too much.

He’d like to try his hand at it again, possibly in Elk River at the current county fairgrounds or in Becker at the potential new site of the fairgrounds.

“This has been a desire of mine for a long time,” he said. “I would love to build a track.”

He has shared his ideas with Sherburne County officials and even addressed the Sherburne County Fairgrounds Future Planning Task Force on May 7.

Loehr was disappointed to see the group scrap the idea of fairs in both ends of the county. He sees it as a bridge to the future. He said a race track could be a nice amenity for either location.

Elk River has the population and business community to help support an operation, but Becker has the space and distance from residences that make a the venue more attractive.

“People would come from all over,” he said of race crews and fans. “This would be a great plus to consider.”

Loehr first got interested in pushing for a local track after visiting the Elk River Library and seeing the land along Orono Parkway.

“I saw (the back of the fairgrounds) and said this would make a perfect spot for a quarter-mile track,” he said. “With a little banking, some benches and walls put in, this would be great. The racers and pit guys could put it up.”

Loehr’s idea is to get it built up and lease the property for $500 a week during the summer race season.

“It could be the Elk River Speedway,” he told members of the task force. “Or it could be the Sherburne County Speedway.”

Loehr would even go for the Becker Speedway, where there’s a spot on the donated property from the Cox family that has trees to shroud the track from noise and could generate attendance for races before, during and after the fair.

“I would just like for somebody to say ‘you can do this’ or ‘no, you can’t,’” Loehr said. “I just don’t want to be left hanging on with it.”