Drag racing fans are hoping Thunder in the Valley will return to the Alberni Valey Regional Airport. NEWS FILE PHOTO

Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association aims to return to airport by 2019

Racers hope to work on a “permanent venue”

Port Alberni drag racers are hoping to return to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport by 2019.

Roger Haggerty of the Alberni Valley Drag Race Assocation (AVDRA) was in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board room on Wednesday to present his case for the “Thunder in the Valley” drag races moving back to the airport.

“Getting back to the airport will allow the AVDRA to hold a larger event,” he explained. “This will also hopefully get more spectators attending it again.”

More racecars and more spectators, he said, have led to a “bigger economic result for the Valley” in the past.

AVDRA began in 2001, holding its first races at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. In 2016, AVDRA was forced to leave its original location due to construction and relocated the race to downtown Port Alberni on Stamp Avenue. The new location only offers a 1/8-mile track, as opposed to the 1/4-mile track at the airport, and causes traffic to be shut down on one of the town’s main streets for a weekend. Because the track is smaller, several classes of vehicles can no longer race.

Racing on Stamp Avenue has had its challenges, including a loss of specator revenue, and Haggerty suggested that it may no longer be possible in 2019. Average spectator attendance dropped from 4,300 to 1,650 with the move to Stamp Avenue, and average spending on food and beverages by spectators dropped from $129,000 to $49,500.

In its proposal, the AVDRA proposes racing from the middle of the current runway for the 2019 season, but members would also like to focus long term on a permanent venue at the airport. With the partnership of the ACRD, they hope to build this venue—including burnout boxes and additional infrastructure—at the north end of the runway and expand their racing portfolio to include two or three more annual races.

READ: Could Thunder in the Valley roar at Alberni’s airport once more?

Haggerty said he has toured the airport with airport manager Mark Fortune and discussed a number of different possibilities for the races. Haggerty is interested in launching from the middle of the runway, which would avoid any painted lines that can cause “safety problems” for drivers, and also need to be repaired after damage.

Racing on airports is not uncommon—communities like Port McNeill, Osoyoos and Princeton all hold annual races that launch from the runway of their airports. The Vancouver Island MotorSports Association, based in Campbell River, is looking at building a permanent facility with a drag strip right beside the airport runway.

“There is no other quarter-mile racetrack on Vancouver Island, and that’s the draw,” said Haggerty.

Beaver Creek director John McNabb pointed out that the logistics for a return to the airport are not simple. “We just put in a very expensive lighting system that absolutely has to be protected,” he said. “We’ve got issues around firefighting. All of this has to be looked at from an objective point of view. The event is an awesome event for Port Alberni and we need to maintain it in the best way possible.”

READ: Wildfires led to increased air traffic at Alberni Valley Regional Airport in August

READ: Runway paving close at Alberni’s regional airport

The board agreed to refer this proposal to the Alberni Valley Committee, and asked staff for a logistics report.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

New owner ‘walking away’ from derelict Arrowview Hotel after one week

WorksafeBC issues stop work order; owner Stan Pottie says cost to continue too high

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to campaign in Port Alberni

Singh joins Courtenay-Alberni candidate for rally to kick off final weekend before election

BC Transit to offer free bus services in Port Alberni on Election Day

Alberni Valley residents will be able to ride the bus for free on Election Day

ARTS AROUND: Port Alberni artists show their love of nature

“Spirits of Earth, Wind and Water” is on now until Oct. 30

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

With $4M investment, Camosun College offers first sonography program on Vancouver Island

Starting in May 2020 students from Vancouver Island can pursue a career in sonography

Scooter rider suffers life-threatening injuries in crash in Nanaimo

One person airlifted to hospital in Victoria after collision on Wall Street on Thursday

Elizabeth May confirms plan to eliminate fish farming in open ocean pens

Green Party leader stops in Qualicum Beach as part of Island campaign

STRIKE: WFP and USW are back at the table for mediation

“No further updates until either an agreement is reached or one party or the other breaks off talks”

Pole-climbing thieves pilfering wire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Repairs are costly and thefts jeopardize public safety

Green Party leader Elizabeth May rolls through Vancouver Island to boost a party stronghold

Mocks media, evokes Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and promises change

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Most Read