The sale of the former Miller Motorsports Park, renamed the Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) may have hit yet another snag, this time coming for Utah State Representative Douglas Sagers (R-Dist. 21) who is demanding to review all the documentation related to the sale. If not allowed to do so Rep. Sagers will seek a subpoena for access to the terms of the agreement, according to ABC4 in Salt Lake City.
A press release issued by the purchaser of the facility states the transfer of ownership was effective on or before November 5, 2018.
Much of the concern among those who live in the county surrounding the Tooele, UT facility is that it’s sold at its fair market value, as required by state law. $100 million was spent to build the facility in 2005, yet the top bidder was a Wyoming investment firm offering $22.5 million dollars. The three-member Tooele County Commission instead selected the $20 million bid from the MiTime Investment and Development Group, a subsidiary of the Geely Holding Group, the Chinese carmaker that also owns Lotus, Volvo, and London Taxis. In addition, Geely owns and operates the FIA Chinese Formula 4 Championship and is preparing to launch an entry in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
History and the Facility
The 50-acre facility was constructed by the owner of 60 car dealerships and the Utah Jazz, Larry Miller, and opened in 2006. The course, created by Alan Wilson who also designed Barber Motorsports Park and over 20 other circuits, can be divided into sections for simultaneous use. The full course totals 23-turns and is 4.486 miles long. Facilities within the circuit include 220 team garages, 40 day garages, 27 hot pit garages, a driving school, an on-site medical facility, a premier Club House, a vintage car museum, and a helicopter pad.
After Miller’s death in 2009, the Miller family continued to operate the facility until 2015 when they notified the Tooele County they would not renew the 10-year lease on the land on which the track is situated. On October 31, 2015, the facility fell under the control of Tooele County. It has since been operated under contract to Tooele County on a year-to-year basis by MiTime.
Competing Bids Submitted
This is the latest bit of wrangling over the sale of the facility. Shortly after the transfer of the property to Tooele County in 2015, a purchase agreement was made with MiTime. The Wyoming-based investment group Center Point Management had bid more than $2 million over MiTime and took the issue to court.
According to KSL.com, Center Point argued the sale to MiTime should be halted and 3rd District Court Justice Robert Atkins agreed. Atkins stated in his written ruling that, using its own data, Tooele County taxed Miller Motorsports Park at a rate that valued the property at about $28.1 million. Center Point also reportedly bid $22.5 million on the park prior to the sale. Atkins said those two factors show the county knowingly sold the property below market value, which is illegal in the sale of public property.
Rationale behind Accepting Geely Bid
So why would Tooele County select the lower of two bids? Alan Wilson, the track’s designer who also managed the facility for three years made a presentation at a public hearing in 2015 on MiTime’s behalf. The presentation promised more jobs, a car manufacturing plant, more tracks, and an immediate $6- to $8- million upgrade to the facilities, according to KSL.com. The site reported the presentation to the “County Commissioners were met with thunderous applause in response to their intentions to sell Miller Motorsports Park and its surrounding land to a Chinese company. Current employees at the park, racers, and racing supporters voiced their support.”
In its November 5 press release, MiTime CEO of Utah Motorsports Campus Willem Geyer stated “We are really excited about the future of UMC, and we have significant plans for the facility. We are studying the viability of adding various race tracks, entertainment venues and supporting infrastructure that will not only solidify our position as one of Utah’s major entertainment facilities but also ensure that UMC will be a profitable venture for the first time in its history.”