County commissioners terminate promoter’s contract at Grays Harbor Raceway

MONTESANO — With the reading of a letter, a quick comment and a vote, the Grays Harbor Raceway’s promoters were fired during Tuesday’s special meeting of the Grays Harbor County Commissioners.

Citing breach of contract in three significant areas, the commissioners terminated the promotions contract held by the Vancouver-based Great Northwest Promotions LLC immediately with a 3-0 vote.

District 1 commissioner Wes Cormier, who represents East County, including the Elma-based raceway, said the timing of the termination was important to help ensure a 2014 racing season at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds facility.

“I am going to push this as fast as I can,” Cormier said. “The timing is important. We don’t want to lose an entire year of racing. That is important to me. We’ve gone out of our way — commissioners now and in the past — to get things worked out with Great Northwest Promotions. … We need to get rid of (this type of) business with the county. We needed to do this.”

Commissioners Frank Gordon and Herb Welch, who was making his first appearance at a commission meeting since he fell ill due to heart complications in July, voted in favor of the termination letter. Great Northwest Promotions, originally based in Montesano and moved to Vancouver, have been promoting races at the raceway since 2007.

Efforts to reach representatives of Great Northwest Promotions were unsuccessful.

In a draft letter released by the commissioners, termination was based on three areas of the contract.

• The first breach comes from non-payment totaling $6,109.29 for security services rendered by the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office at the raceway. The invoices for the security services were dated, beginning Sept. 26.

• The second breach is related to non-payment and “(failure) to provide documentation of paid admission ticket sales” for the raceway’s special events, which equals $1 per ticket, for national and regional events. The special events were the 2013 World of Outlaws event and the 2012 and 2013 American Sprint Car Series events. In total, there were 11 events — World of Outlaws, ASCS Northwest and ASCS National — during that timeline. The county receives money based on the single-day attendance numbers from each of those special events. Without the attendance/tickets sold numbers, the county doesn’t know how much it is owed.

• The third breach of contract was “failure to deliver to the County at the beginning of each year’s racing season a fully executed bond or letter of credit.”

Cormier noted that he and county staff met with representatives of Great Northwest Promotions earlier this summer to talk about grievances, the contract and other issues. No other contact between the county and the promotions company has taken place since.

When asked if the promoters will be surprised to see the letter, Cormier noted, “(they) very well could be.”

“They were supposed to come to us, because they didn’t like parts of the contract,” Cormier said. “We didn’t like parts of the contract as well. They owe the Sheriff’s Department and the county. They ignored us, like we’d go away. I was fed up with it.

“This is about doing good business for the county,” Cormier added. “I feel this is best for the citizens of Grays Harbor. I would welcome, once we put the new contract out, (Great Northwest Promotions) to bid on it. They are still bound by this (now-terminated) contract. That debt has to be fulfilled. First, we will send them the letter and see how willing they will be to work with us. We will do that before we make any decisions, but (debt collection) is a possibility.”

Cormier and Gordon both noted problems with the promotions company with scheduling races that conflicted with equestrian events at the fairgrounds. Cormier added that there were other interested parties on Grays Harbor who wanted a chance to promote the races at the raceway.

Cormier didn’t have a timeline on when the county will receive bids on promoting races at the raceway, which was built up and renovated under the stewardship of Fred Brownfield and his Brownfield Promotions company until his death in 2006.

Racing at the fairgrounds began in the late 1950s, went dark for five years in the 1960s, and has been running continuously since 1965.

The current track was built in 1979-80 by race fans, drivers, officials and car owners inside the old equestrian race track.