MILWAUKEE — Fans won't be able to see auto racing stars such as Danica Patrick or Carl Edwards at the Milwaukee Mile in 2010, but officials insist the historic track isn't dead. In fact, they're running snowmobile races there this weekend.
That's an example of the kind of smaller-scale events the track will try to attract for the immediate future, after the Wisconsin State Fair Park board of directors was unable to find a new promoter for the financially troubled track.
Interim executive director Craig Barkelar said the board is committed to attracting local and regional motorsports events while continuing to search for a new promoter to bring big-time events back in 2011 — despite months of negotiations with four potential promoter groups that all failed to cross the finish line.
"I'm still hoping that there's a promoter out there that can run it in a cost-effective way," Barkelar said Thursday.
The State Park Fair board said late Wednesday it was ruling out the possibility of holding national races at the Mile in 2010. Barkelar said officials were "unbelievably disappointed" that a deal couldn't be worked out with a new promoter for the track, which dates to 1903.
The board voted in July to end its partnership with the track's previous promoter, which was believed to owe NASCAR and the Indy Racing League several million dollars. The IndyCar series already had removed Milwaukee from its 2010 schedule, but two NASCAR series still were scheduled to return next year.
"NASCAR had a signed sanction for our NASCAR Nationwide series and NASCAR Camping World truck series races at the Milwaukee Mile," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said in a statement. "However, we have learned that the promoter cannot meet the terms of their agreement. NASCAR was aware of this possibility and we have been working on alternate opportunities on the 2010 schedule for both series and will announce those soon."
After deals with three potential promoters fell through in recent months, NASCAR officials recommended a fourth group. State Fair Park board officials said the fourth group was "very interested" but did not move forward with a deal because the track's "margin for profitability was too thin."
State Fair Park officials were willing to pay approximately $1.5 million per year in debt service on previous improvements to the track. The board also was willing to reduce the licensing fee it charged promoters. But the board was not willing to foot the bill for improvements the track might need in the future.
"To be responsible, we can really not do more than that," Barkelar said. "We cannot just give a blank check going forward."
Barkelar still hopes a new promoter can be found to bring major events back in 2011.
"We've not given up on national races," Barkelar said.