The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District has terminated its contract with Thunder in the Valley, which means the drag racing event will not be held at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport in 2016.
However, drag racers take heart: the City of Port Alberni is looking at closing Stamp Avenue for three days in August so the event can be moved into the heart of the city.
“The regional district, because of the expansion at the airport, has terminated our contract with them,” Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association (AVDRA) president Bill Surry said.
“We would be right in the middle of our construction window and wouldn’t be able to accommodate their event on our site,” airport manager Mark Fortune said.
Thunder in the Valley always takes place the weekend after the BC Day long weekend in August; construction isn’t due to be complete on the runway expansion until September.
Surry is hopeful the change of venue will only be for one year. The AVDRA will be allowed to re-apply for a contract at the airport for 2017, he added.
In the meantime, there are plans afoot to move the event to Stamp Avenue and change it to a 1/8th-mile drag strip. The street would be closed for three days from Redford to Roger streets.
“We think we can pull it off and put on a good show there,” Surry said.
A lot of work still needs to be done, but Surry is glad the event won’t have to shut down completely. “The city figures it’s going to be a big boon to bring it into town.”
Stamp Avenue seemed to be the best location, both Mayor Mike Ruttan and Surry agreed.
“It has to be paved, it has to be flat, it has to be safe,” Ruttan said.
“We did look at other places in the Valley” but there was nowhere else the city felt they could have ready in time for the August 2016 event.
Ruttan confirmed Catalyst Paper has been approached about perhaps some of the mill property for the event. “We have had some preliminary discussions with them, yes,” he said.
The drag racing association will meet in early January to talk logistics, and Surry said they will have their safety team from Vancouver come over to check it out.