Pulaski County accepts double donation

<strong>Supervisors special meeting at Pulaski County Motorsports Park Jonathan Sweet and the Pulaski Count Board of Supervisors vote to accept the donation of the Pulaski County Motorsports Park from Shelor Motor Mile to the County of Pulaski. (Photos by William Paine/Patriot Publishing) </strong>
Supervisors special meeting at Pulaski County Motorsports Park Jonathan Sweet and the Pulaski Count Board of Supervisors vote to accept the donation of the Pulaski County Motorsports Park from Shelor Motor Mile to the County of Pulaski. (Photos by William Paine/Patriot Publishing)


Patriot Publishing

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors convened at two separate locations on Thursday to announce what amounts to be the largest gift in Pulaski County history, and likely the largest private donation ever given to a locality in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The first meeting of the board took place just before noon in the VIP towers at the Pulaski County Motorsports Park.

With the board seated in front of a sizeable gathering of VIPs and county employees, County Administrator Jonathan Sweet announced that the Shelor Motor Mile Corporation had agreed to donate the Motor Mile Speedway and Dragway, along with its 152 acre campus, to the County of Pulaski, Virginia.

“It is safe to say that Pulaski County’s intention is to enthusiastically accept this enormous gift and we will look to optimize it for the continued benefit, enjoyment and prosperity of Pulaski County and our citizens,” Sweet stated.

Sweet went on to say that the Shelor Motor Mile and its affiliates have agreed to manage the facility for the next three years and donate all net revenues to Pulaski County. In addition to motorsports activities, the county will have the option to use the facility for other professional sports and entertainment events.

The racetrack first opened in 1952 and Shelor Motor Mile purchased the venue in 2004. Since then, the Motor Mile has hosted NASCAR events, drag races, Monster truck shows and concerts.

“The Motor Mile sports management team will continue to be involved in the operation of the venue and we are working on infrastructure improvements, as we begin planning for our fall schedule of events and even expanding for special events in 2025,” said Melissa Epperly of the Motor Mile.

After the announcement, Laura Walters, Chair of the Pulaski County Supervisor called the meeting to order to officially accept the donation from Shelor Motor Mile. The board then voted unanimously to accept the donation and then agreed to reconvene at 2 p.m. at Calfee Park.

Calfee Park donation
Accepting the Calfee Park donation Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Laura Walters signs a document to formally accept the donation of Calfee Park to the County of Pulaski.

“It’s a tremendous gift from Shelor Motor Mile and we can’t show enough appreciation,” said Supervisor Dirk Compton. “We understand what an honor it is to have it and we’re going to do the best we can with it and manage it as well as we can.”

“This is a happy day for Pulaski County,” added Supervisor Chris Stafford. “We’re very appreciative to the Shelor Motor Mile for entrusting us with this wonderful Motorsports Park and we want to see it flourish and continue to bring economic development and fun activities for Pulaski County citizens and beyond.”

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors reconvened in front of several invited guests on the outdoor deck area of Calfee Park.  County Administrator Sweet began this second meeting  by announcing that, in addition to the Speedway, Shelor Motor Mile is also donating Calfee Park and its 21 accessory parcels to the County of Pulaski.

After Chairwoman Walters again opened proceedings, the motion was made to officially accept the donation of Calfee Park from Shelor Motor Mile. Her fellow supervisors all voted in favor of accepting this second multimillion dollar donation from Shelor Motor Mile.

Calfee Park was built in 1935 and is listed as both a national and state landmark. According to the Motor Mile’s Melissa Epperly, Motor Mile purchased the park in 2015 and completely refurbished it.

“We do want to reassure our fans that today’s announcement has absolutely no impact on Pulaski River Turtles in 2024 and beyond,” said Epperly. “Calfee Park will continue to be home of the Pulaski River Turtles for years to come under the guidance of the Motor Mile sports management team.”

“What a great day for Pulaski County,” said Supervisor Mike Mooney. “Back in the mid 60’s I attended the racetrack and in the mid 70’s I played little league and all through high school I played baseball in Calfee Park. I am so proud to be on this board and I’m grateful to the Shelor Motor Mile family to trust us with this great gift. I’m looking forward to bringing this back to the county and the folks supporting it and making even more events. Be ready for more good news, I think this is just the start.”

The last action of the Supervisors that day was to pass a Resolution of Recognition and Appreciation for David L. Hagan and Larry J. Shelor and the entire Shelor Motor Mile family “for their longstanding partnership and transformational support.”

“It’s a gift and we’re ecstatic about it,” exclaimed Laura Walters. “We’ve been working on it hard for about 8 months and it gives us opportunities for larger events and for our Tourism and Rec departments. It’s just incredible.”

“I like the timing on it and I think it’s going to create a lot of opportunity and I think it’s a great thing for the county and all the citizens as well,” said Pulaski County EDA Board member Bill Cunningham.

“Shelor Motor Mile has been active in this community for years, supporting our schools and everything else,” said Supervisor Jeff Reeves. “I think it’s going to be a big benefit for the county and hopefully the whole region. It’s a good day.”

According to Town Attorney Spencer Rygas, the Town of Pulaski had First Right of Refusal if the owners of the Motor Mile decided to sell the facility. The town was reportedly given the opportunity to buy Calfee Park for several million dollars but was unable to make the purchase.

It was after this, that it was decided to donate Calfee Park to Pulaski County.

Was Mayor Shannon Collins disappointed that Calfee Park wasn’t donated to the town, as it is within town limits?

“It could have been a whole lot worse,” replied Mayor Shannon Collins. “Someone could have bought it and not done anything with it, so we have to look at the positive and that’s what I try to do in all aspects. We just have to work together with the county to make this work because it is in our town. We’ve been mending fences lately anyway, so this is another one of those. We ran it (Calfee Park) for a while and didn’t do a real good job so, I look at it as a positive thing. I try to look for the light at the end of the tunnel and the light at the end of the tunnel is that there will still be baseball in Pulaski County and we’ll still be watching it.”

“My perspective is that Shelor Motor Mile was looking for the right steward for these assets and they found the right steward with Pulaski County,” said Sweet of the donation.  “So yeah, it’s an honor and a privilege to have been considered for this gift.”

After three years’ time, Pulaski County will be responsible for managing these two venues. Is it a concern that, according to sources, neither of these two facilities has been making a profit over the last several years?

“The county’s purpose is not to make money,” Sweet replied. “It’s a different balance sheet for the county than it is for private enterprise. We’re going to have three years to work alongside the Motor Mile family and their affiliates and learn the industry and learn the business and really understand the operations. We could do some fun stuff with this and I think we can do some profitable things as well.”

“Nevertheless, the value of these facilities and what that does to the county’s net financial position overnight is significant from bonding agency standpoint and bond ratings,” Sweet continued. “The facilities and the assets here have significant value to the county. We won’t consider looking this gift horse in the mouth in any fashion. It is a blessing and we are treating it just as that.”

“It’s an historic day for Pulaski County and another monumental epic donation by Dave Hagan and Larry Shelor,” said 42 District Delegate Jason Ballard. “I know I am personally appreciative of their kindness and generosity and I know Pulaski County is, as well.”

“This is a great opportunity for the people of Pulaski County,” said 46th District Delegate Jed Arnold. “It’s a wonderful asset to have here thanks to the generosity of the Shelor Motor Mile and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.”