The Thunder in the Valley drag races could be returning to Stamp Avenue in Port Alberni for a fourth year in a row.
In a letter to Port Alberni City Council, Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association (AVDRA) president Rockey Filipchuk requested the use of Stamp Avenue for Thunder in the Valley 2019, which will take place Aug. 10–11. The event will involve the closure of Stamp Avenue from Roger Street to Redford Street for almost three days and Filipchuk indicated in his letter that Catalyst Paper will once again be supporting the event.
Council approved the request during a meeting on Monday, March 25, although Councillor Cindy Solda pointed out that Stamp Avenue is only Plan B for the AVDRA.
“Plan A—the heart’s desire—would be the airport,” she added.
AVDRA has been campaigning for the last year to return the drag races to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport (AVRA).
AVDRA hosted its first Thunder in the Valley races at the airport, but the association was forced to leave in 2016 due to expansion of the runway. The races were relocated to downtown Port Alberni on Stamp Avenue, which only offers a 1/8-mile track, as opposed to a 1/4-mile track, and also causes traffic to be shut down on one of Port Alberni’s main streets for a weekend.
Roger Haggerty, a member of AVDRA, asked the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) in November for support in moving the drag races back to the airport in 2019. Haggerty indicated that the relocation of the races has led to a loss of spectator revenue and attendance, although last year’s event saw full registration from drivers.
The topic was referred to the Alberni Valley and Bamfield Services Committee, then to the inaugural Alberni Valley Airport Advisory Committee Meeting, which was scheduled to take place at the ACRD board room on Tuesday, March 26 at 1 p.m.
Airport superintendent Mark Fortune has recommended that the 2019 proposal to return the drag races to the airport be denied in order “to protect the significant public investment in the aviation facilities” at the airport.
According to his report, a confidential survey of airport tenants was conducted in February of this year regarding a proposed drag race event in 2019. Of the eight organizations that were contacted, only two were in favour of the drag races returning to AVRA. ACRD staff, meanwhile, has received more than 200 letters of support from the public for returning the drag races to the airport.
While 2019 races at the airport may be out of the question, Fortune has recommended working with AVDRA to discuss an off-runway facility at the airport to support future drag race events.
However, city councillors on Monday pointed out that a decision had not been made yet.
“If it doesn’t work out at the airport we can certainly support them another year in the city, hoping to get them back to the airport in whatever way that ends up happening.” said Mayor Sharie Minions.
We will have an updated version of this story in next week’s edition of Alberni Valley News and online at www.albernivalleynews.com after the Airport Advisory Committee Meeting takes place.