Snowmachine racing may come to Kenai airport

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

Representatives of the Cook Inlet Lions would like to replace the summertime roar of floatplanes taking off at Kenai Municipal Airport's floatplane basin with the wintertime roar of snowmachines drag racing down a one-eighth-mile track.

The Drag Racing Division of the Lions, the same group that organized several weekends of automobile drag races at the Soldotna airport this summer, will make its pitch to the Kenai City Council at tonight's meeting.

"We're already approved with the Airport Commission and got the fire department to agree to have some EMTs there," said Steve Cook, one of the race organizers.

Cook said if the council agrees, racing would start on Dec. 23 and include one race during the Peninsula Winter Games. He said he envisions at least four weekends of racing, with more depending on the weather.

The Airport Commission heard the proposition from the Lions and has recommended the council consider granting the organization a conditional-use permit, according to Airport Manager Becky Cronkhite.

"They originally came to us for car drag races, but there wasn't enough room on our ramp," she said. "Now, they've come to us regarding the floatplane basin, which is not so problematic because it's closed during the winter."

The floatplane basin also is fenced off, which will make it easy to keep spectators and snowmachines separated.

"If the council likes the idea, they will direct us to draft a conditional-use permit," Cronkhite said.

One requirement she has already imposed on the Lions is an engineer's certification that the floatplane basin's ice is safe for such activity.

"We're not ice experts, so we requested they do some testing to see if it's safe," Cronkhite said.

She said she doesn't view the Lions' use of the basin as a revenue source for the airport, but rather a community service.

"The Lions showed us what they do as community service, and we feel we should help," she said.

Cook said proceeds from the gate, entry fees and concessions will go toward the many charitable projects the Cook Inlet Lions are involved in.

He said besides one-eighth-mile drags, he'd like to see drags and oval races for children on smaller snowmachines such as Arctic Cat's Kitty Cat or Ski-Doo's slightly larger Mini-Z. He said the Lions may already have a sponsor to provide prizes for the kids' races.

The race format has not yet been set, Cook said, but would most likely be bracket racing, just like the summer automobile races were.

"Though some people want to race heads-up," he said, describing head-to-head, first-to-the-finish-line racing.

Bracket racing requires racers to set a target time for their machines and be consistently close to that mark.

The Lions Club will use the same timing and starting lights it purchased for automobile drag racing.

"I think it will be a real big hit," Cook said. "Everyone owns snowmachines, and it will be a real family-oriented event."

Cook and another drag racing organizer are scheduled to appear before the Kenai City Council at tonight's meeting, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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