Craig resident eyes revamping track to boost area tourism
Gregg Kolbaba stood in a snowy field Friday.
The 38-year-old Craig native fixed his gaze on the land, pointing to a distant hillside.
He began to speak about his plans for the land sandwiched between the Moffat County Landfill and Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station.
“That hillside over there, that’s where the turns three and four of the oval track will be,” Kolbaba said. “Coming down there will be the straights.”
Continuing on, Kolbaba became increasingly more excited about the area of land that is now the defunct Moffat County Motocross Track. In Kolbaba’s head are the preliminary plans of his vision to rework the motocross track into a multi-faceted motor sports park.
But, Kolbaba’s plan is more than just a dream to see motocross, stock car racing, snowcross and a plethora of other motor sports brought back and revamped on the land that has for years served them.
He thinks his idea has the potential for big benefits to the local economy.
Kolbaba, who owns Valley Performance, wants to make the track an attraction not just in Northwest Colorado, but also around the state and region.
“Racers are going to come here from this entire region,” he said wiping the oil from his hands Thursday in his shop on Breeze Street. “There’ll be people here from New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas. I am going to have some events that pull people in here from a long ways a way. I’ll have big purse races that bring those people in.”
On Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission approved, 3-0, a proposal from Kolbaba to revamp the motocross track. The commission agreed to lease the track and the rest of the land owned by the county in the area to Kolbaba for five years.
The commission will re-examine the lease annually and will receive $1 per year from Kolbaba for the land and 15 percent of gate revenue derived from the operation of the track and other activities.
The Yampa Valley Sports-
man’s Rider Club had previously operated the motocross track for more than a decade.
However, the club met with the commission earlier in the year and canceled the previously approved lease and
“I am not in love with running a facility like that, but that’s the only way its going to happen,” Kolbaba said. “I’d rather see good racing going on than to be one of the complainers. I have got the know-how and the connections to make it happen.
“I wasn’t able to do this until now. Things just weren’t really in place. Everything just seems to be right, right now. So, its time to do it.”
Growing up, Kolbaba was a motor-head, he said. He quickly took a liking to the art of combining wheels, gasoline and speed.
“I raced motocross for 10 years and I was really, really into that,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do with my life is race motorcycles when I was a kid.”
Kolbaba said his passion for the sport of racing eventually led him to building drag racing cars, restoring old vehicles and the work he does now at Valley Performance. However, that passion for motocross also squared him up to an interest in the business and science behind the sport.
From a young age, Kolbaba took an active role on the volunteer board that ran the Moffat County Motocross Track.
“Even as a kid I was involved with the design of it and knowing how it worked because (the organizer) wanted input from other people,” he said. “I had that involvement way back when.”
After about 10 years of racing motocross, Kolbaba had a stint with drag racing before getting involved with the Hayden Speedway, where he raced for about eight years.
Kolbaba said his experience racing and helping organize the track was often less than pleasant and led to his interest in starting a new track.
As far as the Hayden Speedway is concerned, Kolbaba feels it is “not the ideal situation.”
“Hayden doesn’t have anything to support a successful racetrack,” he said. “They don’t have restaurants to serve all the people, they don’t have hotels, they have one gas station — they don’t have the things you need to support a well-run racetrack.
“So, I just said I am going to walk away from it.”
Since then, Kolbaba has spent the last several years looking for an opportunity to open his own stock car and motocross track.
The land just south of the landfill is ideal for Kolbaba’s plan, he said.
Among the many improvements he wants to bring to the area, Kolbaba wants to have something for every person’s interest.
Kolbaba has eyes to slightly alter the existing motocross track, start snowcross racing as well as mud racing, truck and tractor pulls, and eventually monster truck shows.
“Not everybody wants to race a stock car, not everybody wants to race a motorcycle,” he said. “You have little groups of people that like different things.”
Perhaps the biggest addition Kolbaba wants to install on the land is a three-eights of a mile oval dirt stock car racing track. He is planning for his track to be slightly larger than Hayden’s.
Kolbaba is taking an attitude that if he builds it, racers will come.
“At some point I think it will be at least double of what it is right now,” he said of the number of area residents racing stock cars. “There are a lot of people that quit racing or won’t race — I bet there are 15 race cars sitting around here that aren’t getting used because the (existing local) track isn’t run right.”
But, that is not all Kolbaba wants to do with his new space. The resident also wants to build motorcycle, ATV and mountain biking trails for lighter recreation.
“It’ll just be something that you can go ride and you are not in anybody’s way,” he said. “You can just do your thing and enjoy yourself. There are a lot of people that could use this.”
In his proposal to the county, Kolbaba included a sample schedule of events he’d like to host at the track.
From May of next year through March of 2012, Kolbaba has outlined 25 different events at the park ranging from mud racing, stock car and super stock, among others.
Although Kolbaba contends the schedule is a bit ambitious for his first year, he thinks he can pull it all off in time.
To ensure the track is exactly what he wants it to become, Kolbaba will oversee its direction while hiring individuals to be in charge of each aspect of the track, he said.
The other key to keeping the track successful, he said, is making it something everybody will want to use.
“You’ve got to get every person — whatever they’re into — you need to have an event for them,” he said. “That’s my outlook. You just can’t focus on one thing. It needs to be a multi-faceted facility.”
Having such a motor sports park is something Kolbaba thinks will boost tourism and ultimately the area’s economy.
In the face of an uncertain coal industry and lack of other steady industries driving the local economy, Kolbaba said his motor sports park could be the first step to finding the right economic bandage.
“Everybody is just coasting along on the coal mine, power plant situation and that won’t last forever,” regardless of pending state and federal legislation, he said.
The upside to the track’s presence is huge, Kolbaba said.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people here that would ordinarily never come here,” he said.
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner agreed with Kolbaba’s sentiment.
“That would be wonderful for our community if his (motor sports park) were to be successful,” she said. “It would draw people in and engage those in the community that are looking for events and a place to ride.”
Kolbaba thinks while those tourists are here they might notice the beauty of the surrounding area and decide to stay.
That’s all the more reason, he said, the county and city need to “get in gear” with tourism and develop it “so when those people are here at my racetrack, they see other things to do.”
“If I have people coming to these races, while they’re here, they’ll find out there are other things to do and they’ll come back,” he said. “That really opens the door for the county to any number of things.”