In their 21st year of hosting the Parts Canada TransCan, there are some big changes underway at Walton Raceway. On July 25, the Lee family and Walton Raceway staff greeted a large group of media, fans, supporters and local and federal politicians at this hallowed motocross ground to share their vision for the future.
Already recognized as a major tourism event in Huron East and across Huron County, the Lees are never content to rest on past success. With the future in mind and a vision of diversity in mind, they have been seeking out community partnerships and making on-site improvements to attract new visitors and give their loyal Walton clientele added value.
“We’re making changes for the future,” explains Chris Lee. “We are trying to set the operation up so it’s more diversified and more viable so we can get another generation growing. We are looking for opportunities to grow and putting together partnerships that add to the atmosphere and the diversity.”
The first thing you’ll see when entering the gates at Walton this year is a giant new Event Centre building. The south-facing roof features 8,000 square feet of solar panels that can produce over 100KW of power a day when the sun is shining. Built in partnership with local business-KW PowerLogic—the new building will become the hub of all future Walton Raceway events. This will be the new home of registration, food service and some vendors for this year’s TransCan.
On your way in the gate, you will also notice a billboard announcing another new community partnership—with Ducks Unlimited. The Lee Wetland Restoration project was implemented in 2010 and demonstrates the Lee’s commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. For Ducks Unlimited, it’s a great opportunity to reach out to a new demographic. “We were able to offer a new area and a new base of people to educate so it was very simple,” explains Brett Lee.
Just past the Event Centre, there is a new bicycle pump track being developed. For use by TransCan campers and Walton Raceway visitors, the track will someday play host to events of it’s own. Entering the bush to the right of the gate is a new mountain bike trail system. With demo riders taking to the trails at Wednesday’s event, it’s easy to see the potential for an extensive trail system here, offering another opportunity for future growth and events.
Walton Raceway has always enjoyed overwhelming support from Municipal, Provincial and Federal politicians and that was clear at Wednesday’s event. With Federal MP for Huron/Bruce Ben Lobb, Huron East Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley and a long list of municipal mayors and council members in attendance, it’s clear the community realizes the value the Raceway provides.
“I aligned myself immediately with Chris and his crew after recognizing the economic impact of this event,” explains Hawley. “Not just in Huron East but for Huron County and beyond the borders. With the influx of people coming in for the TransCan and their regular races—I think their gates are 25,000 to 30,000 over the TransCan week—and their spring and fall events bring even more people. With that many people travelling through your community, people are stopping, spending money on gas, visiting restaurants. For every $1 dollar spent at Walton there is another $7 in spinoff being spent in the community by those coming to watch the event and participate as well.”
With the added support of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport through the Celebrate Ontario program, a Friday night concert with signature country artist Jason Blaine has been added to the TransCan lineup. With no change in admission fees, the Lees were able to add extra value for TransCan visitors while reaching out to an even larger audience of country music fans.
“They are providing more bang for the dollar and really there isn’t much of that going on these days in terms of events, tourism or concerts,” explains Huron/Bruce MP Ben Lobb. “You get to compete or watch a world-class event like this plus you get to take in a concert from a legitimate country artist. It sure offers good value for your time at Walton.”
Continuing their mandate to reach out through social media, Raceway staff unveiled a new 3D dynamic lap around the Walton track. The video, available on YouTube , was posted live on Twitter and Facebook at the same time it was shown to media at the on-site event who received it with a hearty round of applause.
Several changes have been made to the track, including relocating the start to the north end of the track and the addition of a sand section. “The rest of the changes are just tweaks to throw some challenges at people,” explains Chris Lee. “A lot of the work has also been recovering from the heavy rain on the last day of the TransCan last year. We’ve and added about a foot of topsoil to the entire track. The changes will be an equalizer for riders from across the country”.
With pit locations also changing this year (amateurs will now pit and camp north of the previous pro area—with pro pits moving to the lower entrance) and additional camping and parking being added, Walton Raceway is now more capable than ever of hosting large scale events. “We could get into doing bicycle events, competitions on the pump tracks, truck mud bogs and truck races on the actual track,” explains Chris Lee. “We have also greatly expanded our camping capacity so we can actually take on bigger events. For things like Tough Mudder and those sorts of events, the first thing they ask you is can you park 5,000 cars? Actually we can now! So that opens a lot of doors and creates a lot of possibilities.”
“The potential is endless here,” says an excited Jan Hawley after the presentation. “Chris and his team are always pushing the envelope and exploring new opportunities. I am so proud of this event. It’s not just a local event; this is a global event, happening right here. We are a community of 100 people and we invite the world. You can’t get better than that.”
For more information on Walton Raceway visit www.waltonraceway.ca