The Onawa Racing Inc. board of directors and racers across Iowa and Nebraska are celebrating this week after the city approved a plan to construct the Onawa Racing and Events Complex, which will feature a 1/4-mile drag strip on a defunct airport runway just off I-29 in western Iowa.
The Onawa Racing and Events Complex, headed up by a group of 10 board members comprising community leaders and local business owners, has been envisioned as a financially viable alternative use for the underused Onawa Municipal Airport. With the support of the local community and city officials, the board has been able to make their dream of building a multi-purpose entertainment venue a reality.
In addition to weekly drag racing events, which the board hopes to receive NHRA or IHRA sanctioning for, plans also call for the construction of a permanent 9,000 square foot building on the property to host community events, conventions, concerts, fairs, and other events. The current roadmap also includes seating for 880 spectators, an outdoor vendor area, and a playground.
The Onawa city council shuttered the Onawa airport in July of 2015 after more than 20 years of operation, citing its inability to turn a profit in that time. In May of that year when city officials announced the impending closure, the concept for the dragstrip was already in the works, with the city determined to maintain ownership of the property and turn it into an economic boon to the small town of around 3,000 (Monona county comprises a population of about 10,000).
“If we can take this airport now and we can turn it back into industrial development and get some real estate taxes coming in on this and a lot of people don’t like to lose their airport but if you look at it, we’re not losing the airport, we are gaining maybe a lot of business out of this, a lot of tax basis. I think this is a big step in taking a challenge for what we can do for the area,” Vice President of Onawa Racing Inc. Phil Schroder told Siouxland News.
On Thursday, the board was given the green light and signed papers to move forward with the project, which the Onawa Racing Inc. group plans to invest $1 million to complete over three years. The track will create three full-time employment opportunities and 15-20 seasonal positions, with gross projected revenue estimated to be $400,000 annually.