Motocross racing in Mohave County nearly took a header when SARA Park in Lake Havasu City closed its track a few years ago.
But, when the chips were down and it looked like motorcyclists were out of a place to ride, Mitch Thompson stepped in and bought an old track north of Kingman.
After a lot of hard work renovating the Moto Park opened with a six-race series last year and is now a major draw all across the county and tempts riders from as far away as Phoenix and Las Vegas to trek to Kingman.
"We've had four motocross tracks out here," Thompson said.
"SARA Park has been open twice.
That failed because it was on the dime of the taxpayer.
Joe Weber had the track we have now.
He had it for a while and was unsuccessful at it.
"As soon as SARA Park failed we just kept going with it."
Thompson purchased the track in January of 2001 and turned the abandoned facility into a first-rate track that draws as many as 150 riders for races.
"It took me seven months to clean it all up, tear down all the old buildings and towers and tires and stuff and build a new motocross track," Thompson said.
"There was a lot to do.
We had to tear down 5,400 feet of barbed wire fence and build about that much chain link and there's still a lot to be done out there.
"The place looks 110 percent better that it ever did."
It was a slow start.
Although Thompson bought the property in January of 2001, it was August before the gates were open for practice sessions.
"From August to December we just practiced," Thompson said.
"We didn't race until January of 2002.
The racing is when it really started to work.
"Until we raced they were trickling in and it was really slow.
Now we've had as low as 50 and as many as 150 entries.
Our January (2003) race was the biggest motorcycle race in the Mohave County history (155 entrants)."
Thompson credits the success of the racing to focusing on the riders and the track.
"The reason all the track and parking and Porta-Pottys is that's all we need to race," Thompson said.
"You don't need all the grandstands and lights and stuff there is at SARA Park to race motocross.
"This is a state-of-the-art motocross track.
It may not be a state-of-the-art facility, but it's a state-of-the-art track.
It's designed to be safe and fun for all motocross levels.
"When it comes right down to it, the riders don't care about anything but the track."
Although race attendance is good and a lot of riders show up for practice sessions, the track is a long way from being self-sufficient.
"You're not going to get riders from across the nation to come in and race here.
We need the guys who live around here to come in and race regularly to pay for it," Thompson said.
"Whatever the losses are from the week, my job that I work is where the money comes from to fill the gap."
Thompson, Bill Riley and Robert Buckley have incorporated to run the track and the races and the corporation is hoping to someday be in the black.
But, so far it's taken money out of all their pockets in addition to entry fees and the help of a number of sponsors to keep the 10-acre facility in operation.
Campbell Redi-Mix, George Pest Control, Mohave County Fence and Guardrail, Querry and Querry General Contractors, Bridgewater Homes, Frontier Concrete, Canyon Tire and Auto, Mancuso Concrete, Eagle Fence, Cobra One Painting, Kawasaki Suzuki of Kingman, Route 66 Motorsports, Arizona Cycle Sports, Dr.
Dirt's Motorcycle Accessories, Larson Equipment and United Rentals have all contributed to the track as sponsors and Thompson said Moto Park wouldn't exist without their help.
Jeff Ortberg, who works in sales at Route 66 Motorsports, races at the track and thinks being a sponsor is a great thing for business.
"We advertise with them.
We feel for our customer base it will be a great boon for our business," Ortberg said.
"In an area that is starved for something to do for kids, pretty much anyone, it's a positive thing to do all the way around.
"Our base goes from peewee riders, age 4, up to probably around age 50.
I have the No.
1 plate in Master's class."
Quality and safety were key issues for Thompson, Riley and Buckley when they began work on the track.
"I've seen all the tracks open and close in Mohave County," Thompson said.
"We're running International Motorcycle Safety Association sanctioned for safety.
Only a state-of-the-art, professionally run motocross facility is ever going to get their sanction.
"What the IMSA is, is a rider/motocross facility advocacy group.
It works with insurance companies and track operators to make it affordable for riders to ride at the club level."
Although the track is off to a successful start, Thompson believes that the county only has enough riders to support one track.
"If we're going to have a motocross track it's got to serve all three towns (Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City)," Thompson said.
"We cannot afford, as a small motocross group, to split the club by saying we need a track in Lake Havasu and one in Bullhead City.
If we do that they'll all fail."
The new season is off and running.
Moto Park has already run two races and work done since last summer enhanced the facility
"Last summer we closed for expansion while we made it a 10-acre track instead of an 8-acre track," Thompson said.
"This year we'll race through the summer.
"It's a heck-of-a-lot of fun."
For information about Moto Park call (928) 680-0691.
Getting to Moto Park
From I-40 go north on Stockton Hill Road to just past milepost 14.
Turn right on Calle Muerlos and go about two miles.
The track is on the right.
Calle Muerlos is a one-lane dirt road.
Moto Park schedule
March 1 practice noon to dark
March 2 practice 9 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
March 16 Race 10 a.m.
April 5 practice noon to dark
April 6 practice 9 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
April 13 Race 10 a.m.
May 3 practice noon to dark
May 4 practice 9 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
May 17 Race 10 a.m.
June 20 practice 4 p.m.
to 10 p.m.
June 21 Night race 5 p.m.