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Leadership looks to reboot Hawkeye Downs

A conceptual drawing of Hawkeye Downs shifts the campground from the front to the back, and adds a bevvy of attractions for people of all ages.

The sights and sounds of Hawkeye Downs Speedway and Fairgrounds bring back memories for long-time racing enthusiasts and former fair-goers, with the historic grandstand providing a spectacular view on race night.

The speedway is still the biggest draw, with the expansive property attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, and now leadership is aiming to revamp the 93-acre plot.

"We need a vision for our campus," said Ann Poe, the executive director of Hawkeye Downs.

That vision has come together over the past year, with research, focus groups, and community feedback at the forefront of development plans to reboot the nearly century-old speedway.

"We have a lot of space and we have a lot of desire to provide additional amenities to the community," said Poe.

Those amenities including a miniature golf course, zip-lining, ropes course, go-kart track, and other family friend attractions.

The leadership team plans to repurpose the name Frontier Park, the original title for Hawkeye Downs, allowing history buffs like Mark Stoffer Hunter to wax nostalgic once more.

"You kind of hear that sound and I think if you're a newcomer to Cedar Rapids, you're like, 'What's that noise every Friday night or Saturday night?' It's that race track sound. But that's what kind of helps you feel like it's home," said Stoffer Hunter, who is eager to see how the fairgrounds are re-imagined.

The costs of the project, which include razing old buildings, adding air conditioners to the expo center, and a gate way with all-new branding, is expected to cost roughly $3 million, and board president Julie Kraft said the team will look to find the money in various places.

"We're going to have to look to federal money, state money, local money, grants, fundraising," said Kraft, adding, "that's really what's going to have to be at the heart of getting this money."

The board of directors for the nonprofit say they hope to have a ribbon-cutting on the speedway's 100th birthday, which falls in six years.

Realistically, Kraft said, the reboot could take close to a decade for fundraising.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the raceway and event center brought in $7 million for the local economy.

If you'd like to pitch in to get the project off the ground, you are asked to call Hawkeye Downs directly at 319-365-8656.

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