Rod Wolter, former general manager of the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., came out of retirement on a mission: To assume duties as Brainerd International Raceway's general manager and try to convince its parent company, Sports Resorts International, Inc., not to sell the facility (the Michigan based company announced in March that the facility was for sale).
"My interest is to keep this facility going," Wolter said Tuesday in BIR's main office, "and prove to them that this can be run successfully as a motorsports facility. And there is no reason why it can't. They've got good staff. A lot of good racers.
"I hope as we have ET finals and points meets here, and all the champions come from here at this race," he continued. "It just builds your reputation with the rest of the racers. But just kind of show and demonstrate to the owners what can be done with motorsports here."
Wolter said there hasn't been any interested parties pursuing the sale lately but the facility is still for sale.
"You can't say it's not," he said. "For the first time I heard them say that maybe we don't want to sell it. Just as a comment. But anything is for sale to anybody if the price is right."
He said the convenience store might be sold to some other party.
Wolter took the position April 25. He said a National Hot Rod Association representative called him. He replaces Scott Quick, who resigned last September.
Wolter, who managed the Nebraska Motorplex in Scribner, Neb., from 1980 until 1988, also brings drag racing experience and construction experience. He raced a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle station wagon powered by a 350 cubic inch engine at BIR in the late '70s (ripping off elapsed times of 11 seconds while lifting the front wheels off the ground).
Wolter, who has clocked a 150 mph pass in a gas dragster, said he also has road raced but his favorite has always been drag racing.
"You don't run into each other and it is a rush," the father of seven children, grandfather of 16 grandchildren and great grandfather of two great-grandchildren, said. "That quarter mile acceleration is a rush,"
He said he also knows a track staff can't rush bracket racing. "It is something you've got to keep after," he said. "You can't just say OK, we're going to have bracket racing and go home and wait for them to come."
Wolter didn't wait to climb up the construction ladder in his 25 years. He worked as a superintendent, project manager and project engineer for one of the world's largest construction and mining organizations in North America, Kiewit, which has its home office in Omaha, Neb. Kiewit's buildings include Safeco Field in Seattle and the world's largest glazed geodesic dome, the Henry Doorly Zoo Desert Dome in Omaha.
He also served as Vice President of Corporate Construction for Dover Motorsports Corporation and oversaw the construction of the Memphis Motor Sports Park and Nashville Super Speedway.
He said in yet another occupation, director of operations at the Aksarban entertainment complex in Omaha, he learned how to manage crowds.
With crowds come revenue and that is what Wolter intends to do this summer by hosting more drag races instead of track rentals (like the Porsche and BMW clubs).
He said he would like to offer these clubs track rentals earlier in the week. "If they own a BMW, they can take off work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," he said.
He said BIR's first bracket race May 6-8, which attracted 635 race entries, was phenomenal.
"The support of the bracket racing here is just phenomenal," he said. "The amount of racers they get here probably outdoes about any track that I know of in the nation. They're here to bracket race and that's all they want to do. They don't want any fancy classes or anything like that. Just turn me lose and let me bracket race."
Tim Berns, drag racing manager, said bracket racing also generates more revenue for the Brainerd area.
Wolter said the pair's mission is to come up with a way to better accommodate these racers.
"We have to figure out what we can do for them," Wolter said.
He has a pretty good grip on how to make this track more successful.
"We want to develop as many relationships as we can," he said. "See if we can restore some good relationships. I fully realize that in any kind of sponsorship, it's as much as what I can do for you as they can do for us.
"If I can drive people to their business that's the point. That's why they advertise. Any kind of special deals; we can work something out."
clint wood can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5869.
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