Crucial Months Ahead for WA Motorsport

The next few months could well change the landscape for motorsports in Western Australia for the foreseeable future.

The deadline for bids for Perth Motorplex is 2pm (WST) today, March 23, 2018.      Handover is July 1, just  months away.    In anyone’s language, that’s Government working at an unprecedented speed of light.    Or, as some cynics would suggest, the decision is a foregone conclusion.

The troubled complex near Kwinana, some 26kms south of the Perth CBD, has been on the market since January 2017.  That’s when  the then WA Liberal Government directed VenuesWest to officially begin the process of seeking “suitably credentialed organisations wishing to purchase outright, lease as an operation or to manage and operate the complex”.

VenuesWest responded to a series of questions I put to communications manager, Erin Gallagher.

ACM:   How many bids and/or expressions of interest have been received to date for Perth Motorplex?     How many for each category – sale/lease etc?

VW:  Details of the number of responses received from the EOI (Expression of Interest) process and the subsequent number of respondents asked to submit a bid will not be released at this time, however I can confirm that submissions at the EOI stage were received from within Western Australia as well as nationally.

ACM:   Are these dates – March 23 for bids. July 1 for handover – still valid?

VW:   We are progressing towards ensuring a suitable operator is appointed in time to commence the 2018/19 season.    Whether contracts are signed before or after July 1 is less important than giving an incoming operator sufficient time to plan and deliver the 2018/19 season.

ACM:   Given the change of government, are there any changes to the initial timeline?   If so, what are they?

VW:   The objective to handover the venue prior to the commencement of the 2018/19 season has not changed.

ACM:    And, are there any changes to the original conditions of sale/lease etc?

VW:  This process began with an Expression of Interest so there were no terms and conditions stipulated in the original documentation.    From the EOI we invited select respondents to submit a bid detailing how they would run the Perth Motorplex.

ACM:    What is the size of the lot included in the documentation?

VW:  Lot 435 is approximately 62 hectares.

Tough Conditions for new Owners

The successful contender must sign a 20-year covenant, effectively closing the door on Perth Motorplex being sold off or sub-divided.     There is an absolute requirement to run at least 80 motorsport events a year (whether or not they’re profitable).     Those may be onerous conditions, but hardly unexpected.

The reality is those encumbrances alone suggest the land is worth a fraction of what it would without them.

I understand there are also contaminated soil problems to be dealt with. which undoubtedly will put put the bureaucratic frighteners into the mix.    Not something to be sneezed at, as they say!

Then there is the issue of expensive maintenance to be done because of the rust and salt corrosion that seems to prevail on ageing coastal structures.    So it is going to need some clever and dedicated management to get Perth Motorplex back on the long, hard road to profitability.

Claremont and Ravenswood inevitable victims 

First built in 2000 at a reputed cost of $15m, the facility replaced the iconic Claremont Speedway – on Perth Showgrounds – and the popular Ravenswood Raceway drag strip – on the City’s southernmost outskirts.     Both sites were the inevitable victims of developers and Perth’s steady suburban sprawl and crawl.

In its heyday the former Quit Motorplex annually attracted 300,000 mostly Speedway and Drags aficionados.     It remains a popular venue,  but it hasn’t bolstered  WA’s Treasury coffers for some years.    Mind you, whatever price is eventually paid it is unlikely to make a dent in the current WA deficit.

While the sale documents don’t specify a price, the deciding factor is likely to be which bidder brings most to the table.   No great surprises there, on either count.

Future in the hands of so few

There is a great opportunity – and an accompanying responsibility – for those charged with dealing with the bids to be bold, looking 20 years into the future.   Now, that’s a tough ask.  And it will be interesting to see what their decision is.

Play it safe?    Or be brave enough to take Motorsport in Western Australia to another level altogether?

That’s the legacy the panel – and the responsible Minister and Cabinet colleagues – will leave thousands upon thousands of diehard Motorsport followers,  few of whom are not voters.    And those voters have very, very long memories!

Because I reckon there are some real doozies in the mix here to take over the running of Perth Motorplex.

And an unusual bonus is that provided the Government sticks to its timetable, Motorsports fans across this great State of ours will know what is happening within a few short months.

Now that’s progress.

EDITED by AC