There is no question Perth Motorplex is crucial to the viable future of motorsport in Western Australia.
The latter-day home of Speedway and Drag Racing every year attracts thousands of WA fans in its short six-month season. Many related businesses around Perth rely largely on Motorplex for their livelihood.
The late Gary Miocevich – a true champion promoter of WA motorsport – ran the then Kwinana Motorplex from its 2000 opening. His family decided enough was enough after Gary died in 2016. It was left to VenuesWest, the powerful government arm which manages many sports facilities, to take over the reins. It duly put the facility on the market, received seven expressions of interest by the March 2018 deadline, and reduced the bids to three. Before the proposed July 1 handover, all prospective operators had withdrawn. Venues West chief executive David Etherton said the shortlisted parties cited different reasons for withdrawing at various times during the process. Discussions with interested parties, he added, continue.
Image: High Octane Photos.
Native Title Dilemma
There are any number of reasons why the seven entities which submitted bids – either as owners or leaseholders – chose not to proceed.
Not least is the complex dilemma of the South West Native Title Settlement. The Settlement, as it is known, is the largest native title settlement in Australian history. It takes in about 200,000 square kilometres of this vast State’s lower South West – including Lot 435 and 62 hectares – better known as Perth Motorplex, Kwinana Beach!
And dear Reader that diabolical issue continues – after three long and laborious years – to struggle through a legal minefield, centimetre by bleeding centimetre, and making those arguing the case decidedly richer along its murky journey.
As far as I can ascertain the Settlement is some long way from a meaningful resolution.
Motorplex Valued at $29.5 million
There are other hurdles as well (comparatively miniscule). For example, there are considerable statutory costs a private operator would face which are not applicable to VenuesWest. No point in WA charging itself. Unless there’s a reason for it.
And one item on the 2016-17 balance sheet (the latest available) surprised some of those who initially put up their hands: Prize money – $888,800.
The VenuesWest annual report for the same period valued Motorplex at $29.5 million and showed 182,000 patrons went through the gates, down from the previous year’s 249,000.
WA Committed to Best Possible Outcome
Last month Sports Minister Mick Murray said the McGowan government had “stepped up” to run Motorplex for the coming season (late October to end of April TBC). It is a commitment that falls far short of the called for five-year term. But it is understandable.
“We are committed to securing the best possible outcome for Perth Motorplex, people whose livelihoods rely on the industry, and of course WA motorsport fans,” the minister said.
ACM posed a series of questions to VenuesWest, and
CEO David Etherton has responded:
“On Monday 18 June the State Government announced VenuesWest will continue to operate Perth Motorplex for 12 months. Mark Zundans is the General Manager of the Motorplex and discussions are underway to extend his contract for the upcoming season.
“We are committed to ensuring the management and operation of the venue continues to meet customer expectations and VenuesWest’s strategic objectives. It is our firm belief this is best done by the private sector in the long term.
“VenuesWest is continuing the process to secure a suitable long term buyer/operator for the venue. We remain in discussions with multiple parties identified through the original tender process. The resolution of all title issues is one of the matters that sales/lease documentation will cover.
“Planning for the 2018/19 season is underway, and there is no significant change to the calendar expected in terms of number or delivery of events. As more detailed information becomes available, we will communicate with stakeholders regarding the coming season.
“It will predominantly be business as usual for the upcoming season, with existing contracts and arrangements to be confirmed or extended with respective stakeholders in the coming couple of months. There is no significant change expected to the historical Prize money arrangements for the coming season. In the coming season we do anticipate a minor increase from the historical maintenance costs for the venue.
“The key to the success of the venue is its sale or lease to someone with a huge passion and extensive experience in Motorsport who can operate it successfully for the long term.”
DAVID ETHERTON, CEO, VenuesWest.
David Etherton is one exceptionally smart operator himself and VenuesWest continues to handle a difficult, complex and fluid situation with care, consideration and compassion – as one would expect. Getting his Minister to commit to a 12-month breathing space allows all parties to really appreciate just how serious the situation is. It certainly is in the very best interests of key stakeholders Speedway Australia and the Australian National Drag Racing Association to roll up their sleeves and assist in developing a viable future. Whatever it takes. Meanwhile it gives the CEO and his team clear air to continue the hunt for that elusive operator with the long term vision, and deep pockets, that can keep Perth Motorplex running as a successful business enterprise. I have no doubt his political masters appreciate the importance of presentation, essential improvements, and keeping ahead of much-needed maintenance issues. That is paramount to a successful outcome. It is easy to understand VenuesWest have no wish to rock the boat regarding the current situation while the search goes on. They have a duty to keep the operation stable until a savior is found. And installed, with a firm commitment to drive the ‘Plex along the road as a sustainable venue serving motorsport for many, many years to come.
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