End of Soap Box Derby downtown hails a new era

This year's 14th Annual Soap Box Derby run down Beale Street will be the last, but rather than signaling the end of the annual event in Kingman it will hail in an era of new and improved Soap Box Derby competition in the area.

Thursday afternoon eight members of the Mission Bank board of directors privately donated a permanent site for future Soap Box Derby racing off of Hualapai Road in Mission Hills.

Led by board members Jay Schritter and Lee Bruno, the group turned over the deed to a parcel of land worth about $150,000 to Dan Reed, Kingman Soap Box Derby Inc.

president.

Work on the new track probably won't begin until next summer, but when it does commence it will go off with a bang, former Kingman Soap Box Derby director and track promoter Bill Bowers said.

"We're going to try to do it in 48 hours," Bowers said.

"A lot of these things never happen because they are too slow.

"We want to start work on it and in 48 hours have a rally race the week before our local race."

The building of the race track will be an epic saga that is planned to be captured on video tape for a national broadcaster, which will follow the building of the track, the racing and the eventual winners to the national Soap Box Derby championships in Akron, Ohio.

"ESPN did it two years ago," Bowers said.

"They did a local race and followed the kid to Akron.

They had somebody film it all."

Reed and Bowers envision a similar program, but it will also include the building of the track in a 48-hour time span and the first racing on it.

It is set to open with what is called "rally racing" where Derby racers can come from anywhere in the country and compete for a berth in the national championships.

Plans are still being made for the track itself and it will need approval by planning and zoning authorities, but everything is expected to be in place and ready on time.

"It's taking a while to jump through the hoops," Bowers said.

"We still have an engineer doing work on the design.

"We're shooting to do this sometime early next summer (2003)."

Reed said a permanent facility will be a huge boost to Soap Box Derby racing in Kingman not only for local racing, but also for staging rally races and to give local youngsters a place to practice before going out and racing in real competition.

"This will be our 14th annual Soap Box Derby here," Reed said.

"We want to say 'Thank you!' to all the businesses on Beale Street who have allowed us to inconvenience them by cutting off their parking and closing off their street for all these years.

"I wish I had the names of all the people who started this.

There's people who worked on this 14 years ago who are going to see this and go 'Wow! We're finally going to get our own track!'"

Reed said the tie-in to Mission Bank and Mission Hills perfectly suits the Soap Box Derby.

"It's so appropriate.

Each of the drivers is on a mission to make it to Akron," Reed said.

"When you go to Akron the whole thing is sponsored by Goodyear Tires.

They have the blimp there and everything.

"True Value gives us $5,000 every year to run this.

If it wasn't for True Value we probably wouldn't have a Soap Box Derby.

By them being our sponsor a lot of these kids' dreams have come true by arriving in Akron.

The winners here get an expense-paid trip for the kid and one parent to go back there.

That's what I call true value."

Bowers said the one of the biggest assets the track will provide is the rally racing that can be run nearly all year long.

"People come from all over for it," Bowers said.

"You'd be amazed at how many people will come.

In California they'll get 250 kids with people driving in with mobile homes or flying in with their cars to race.

"It'll have a huge economic impact."