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Cumberland's 'Rock' set for a $31 million facelift

Car racing enthusiasts and fans of a host of motor sports would flock to Cumberland if the city built a $31 million racing complex, according to a new feasibility study for the proposed project.

Allegany County two years ago began looking into expanding its Speedway facility in Cumberland, a small, dirt racetrack on a 155-acre, county-owned property also known as “The Rock.” The county now has a master plan for a sprawling complex that would include upgrades to The Rock and tracks for drag racing, go-carts and biking. The project’s centerpiece would be a two-mile, paved racing path that would serve professional and amateur car racing. The Maryland Stadium Authority commissioned the study and master plan on behalf of Allegany County.

Proponents say the new sports park will lure new investment and tourism to Western Maryland. According to the feasibility study, the project would create 270 jobs and $728,000 in taxes each year to the county and state.

“I think this will be a big draw; this would be a good business,” said Barbara Buehl, executive director of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not just geared for tourists to come; it’s something our community will be involved in and will enjoy.”

The area planned for the Allegany Motor Sports Complex has a racing history that dates to 1924, when it was used for horse racing, an activity that has since ceased. Some of the area’s historic buildings and structures will get makeovers as part of the motor sports project. The original fairgrounds entrance will be restored, while the old Jockey Club will be used for box seating and catered events. Additional parking and a new road will be constructed to help traffic flow.

The project would be funded by a combination of private and public dollars, according to Buehl. The next step is for the county to begin marketing the project to potential investors. NASCAR racing would not be a likely player at the new track, but various other professional racing circuits could be part of the mix.

“I’m hoping that it’s something that is going to be supportive to the community and fuel the economic engine,” said John Felton, whose group National Road Auto Sport hosts car races at the Cumberland Regional Airport. “Basically it’s going to attract people to our community, and while they’re here they’re apt to stay in hotels, go to restaurants.”

Felton has seen interest in racing skyrocket during the last few years, with competitors and onlookers traveling from out of state to attend his events.

“We’ve seen our events grow from a privately invited 16 to 18 cars to a sold-out field with 100 participants per event weekend,” he said. “We’ve seen that people are willing to come from outside our community to participate in motor sports events.”

When Allegany County was first looking into expanding The Rock, amateur racer Larry Judd collected more than 3,000 signatures from racers to encourage the Maryland Stadium Authority to conduct a feasibility study.

“We do have people that have interest and would race at this race facility if someone would put one in,” Judd said.

Not only that, but the complex would provide much-needed diversion for Western Marylanders.

“Our opportunities here are slim to none here as far as entertainment,” Judd said. “Anything we can bring in is a plus.”