Progress being made on search for new Twin Branch promoter/operator
Bruce Justice (Mingo Messenger) May 26, 2023
Provided no more barricades have to be negotiated in the short term, officials say the much-beleaguered Twin Branch Drag Strip is on track to have a new promoter/operator by July.
The startup of races could also possibly begin again at the mountaintop facility sometime in July as well.
During her report to the Mingo County Authority Development Board of Directors at the agency’s May 18 meeting, Executive Director Leasha Johnson said the search for and the ultimate lease agreement with a new promoter/operator who would replace former leaseholder Pete Scalzo is progressing mainly because of a to-date successful advertising campaign.
Last month Scalzo — who since 2018 had been the facility’s promoter/operator and who during that time had solely held the lease on the drag strip — requested and was granted a termination of his agreement with the MCRA.
Scalzo cited health and “unforeseen management issues” as the primary reasons for him requesting the lease’s nullification.
Johnson said the advertising blitz to get the drag strip back into operation began immediately following the dissolution of the lease agreement.
After years of delays primarily due to the MCRA’s being unable to get the access road leading up to the mountaintop facility released from the control of state environmental and mining regulatory agencies, an agreement by all parties was reached in early 2022 so that racing events there could finally commence.
A “test and tune” soft opening was held at the facility later that year in October, which saw more than 250 cars and their owners, as well as more than 3,000 spectators, show up for Twin Branch’s first event.
“The RFP (request for proposal) that we approved at last month’s meeting has already been advertised twice in our local and regional newspapers,” Johnson said. “It has also been on our website and the IHRA website, as well as linked in an article that was on a ‘Dragzine’ website, which is a national news and event outlet that is for drag enthusiasts nationwide.”
Johnson said the “Dragzine” article, which was specifically devoted to the Mingo County venue and the MCRA’s search for a new promoter/operator there, as of last week had already been shared 13,000 times since first appearing on the publication’s website.
Johnson said the extensive advertising campaign has already produced a great amount of interest from prospective promoters/operators.
She additionally expressed confidence that this interest would produce at least two proposals by May 31, which she noted is the deadline for when applications must be in to the MCRA.
“We have had a lot of requests for mapping of the site … one of the prospective lessees is proposing some additional development up there much like Pete did,” she said. “Another purpose for these mapping requests was for them to determine how the utilities (power and water) should be run, which you know are just two of requirements of the lease agreement.”
Johnson said each proposal would be scored according to the criteria listed in the RFP with the use of a scoring rubric, which she noted is still being developed and finalized.
Once all the proposals have been received, Johnson said that she, Deputy Executive Director Greta Curry and two board members will score the results and then present them to the entire MCRA Board with a final recommendation.
“I would like to do that at our June 15 meeting, possibly even before during a special meeting,” Johnson said. “That would give us a jumpstart on notifying the new proposed operator, at which time we would begin negotiating the terms of the new lease and hopefully finalize an agreement by July 1 so they don’t lose anymore of this year’s racing time.”
The result of the comprehensive advertising campaign, Johnson said, is that it has generated much more interest from both local and outside potential promoters/operators than it did the first time.
“There’s definitely more interest this time than there was before,” she said. “And I think that speaks very well to the future of Twin Branch.”