Tarah: Hi there, welcome to Inside Leduc. My name is Tara Flynn and today I am with Kimberly Reeves of Castrol Raceway. So thank you so very much for joining us on our podcast today. Thank you.
Kimberly: Thank you. I’m honored.
Tarah: So provide me with a little bit of an elevator pitch for your business.
Kimberly: Oh, Castrol Raceway, Canada’s most comprehensive motorsport entertainment complex. We are free 100 acres, we’re located just off a highway 19. Our facility features a drag strip and [inaudible 00:53] sanction to three eighths quarter mile dirt oval. We have a 2.7 kilometer road course. We have a 12,000 square meter paddock where we run a drifting program. We also have a 10 acre motocross track that’s used for private industry events. We’re doing a lot all the time.
Tarah: That’s awesome. So comprehensive as in, you have a wide variety of events. That’s what comprehensive means?
Kimberly: Yeah. [01:20] Most facilities throughout Canada, throughout North America will have one specialty, maybe two, they may have a road course and a drag strip or a drag strip and an oval. But where there’s multiple venues within one property, one facility on itself is a rare occurrence just in general in the industry. For us, we just want to continue to grow and expand and keep that motorsport, entertainment and recreation alive. We reinvest everything to continually build our facility.
Tarah: How does that look like for scheduling then if you have so many different things? Can you layer up? Or is it this weekend for this? Or this weekend for that? Or how does that work for you guys?
Kimberly: Scheduling is a jigsaw puzzle. Yes. I do most of the scheduling myself. We can be running, three, four events simultaneously on the property and making things fit, you know, so the dirt oval is going to create dust in the air, which you don’t want on the drag strip that’s in the traction compound. Cars that are too loud may, you know, affect what’s happening on the road course. There’s a lot of juggling that goes into scheduling, but [02:41] we host about 250 events, each season, we make it work. It takes about a month, a month and a half for me to create our schedule. It’s not just taking into account what happens at our facility, we take into account what happens in Western Canada, you know, there’s a lot of different motorsport venues throughout Western Canada. We want to give our participants that opportunity to travel and experience different venues throughout Western Canada. Some of them will even travel into the States, although that’s not really kosher at the moment. Scheduling and taking into account other people’s schedules as well. It’s not just making what fits in our own facility, but making sure what fits for the entire motorsport community so that we can all take advantage and enjoy.
Tarah: Oh, wow. So are they mostly like the same events on the same weekend now? Or do like, do they change up quite a bit as they evolve?
Kimberly: Oh, gosh, that’s a tough one. I mean, we’re always evolving, there’s no doubt about that, especially over the last, let’s say, year. There’s been a lot of changes, but, you know, let’s say pre COVID. And let’s hope very shortly post COVID, the expansion of what’s happening, what we’re doing as a motorsport community, both in our region and both in Western Canada, you know, growing to be inclusive of what’s happening at different venues as well as our own and building up on those so that it benefits our racers. Makes life more exciting for fans, of course, you know, bigger shows with more professional racing, or even more comprehensive training. Training is a huge part of what we do.
Engagement is a huge part of what we do safe street initiatives. There is definitely an evolution. I guess our personal cultural mandate for ourselves is living life in the driver’s seat, which goes kind of directly towards what the magic of lights is. We didn’t create magic of lights to meet any pandemic type restrictions. We’ve been doing this for many years, it’s who we were, we want to experience the joy of the holidays from the driver’s seat, because that’s who we are, as a culture. We have a few more things that are coming down the pipeline. We’re doing drive in and drive through graduations this year.
When we map visions on how we enhance or create our business, we always try to, you know, keep within our core values, and keep within what, you know, we’ve created over the last two decades as our own personal, you know, culture, and that is living life in the driver’s seat. So having fun with it. Recreational of course, like I said, the training enhancements. We have a lot of strong community ties with the RCMP, the police services. We do kids programs. It’s hard to nail down if there would be one trajectory, because I think we all know, things can come out of the left hand, and, throw that trajectory off. That’s what COVID has shown us. I have to look at a silver lining, it’s how to think outside the box and be creative, but still maintain, your core identity. That’s what we strive to do every day.
Tarah: You mentioned, training was a big part, so if someone is like, I want to learn how to drift Is that what you mean by training? They come to you with their car and say, I want to learn or what does that look like?
Kimberly: Absolutely. We have multiple training.
Tarah: Right. Wow. Okay.
Kimberly: I don’t like to call them training. It is what it is it is training. But novice enthusiast programs. Although you’re going to learn, we want to keep it fun. Still maintaining all of the safety aspects, involved with motor sports, but making it an adventure. I think that’s what most people want. You know, when we first get our driver’s license, it’s cool. I mean, right down to small children. I mean, there’s a reason that Disney created the movie, collaboration with cars, cars are exciting. Speed is exciting. It’s something that we’ve always like every person knows and loves. We have a lot of programs that are novice enthusiast. Our largest program is probably our JVs Power Center Street Legal program. Anyone can come out and race on the drag strip. We do there’s grocery getters, mom’s sedan, and minivans.
But there’s hot rods and big trucks and motorcycles. That gives people that opportunity to embrace that need for space. Where we want to keep them off the streets. That’s a program again, we work very, very closely with the RCMP and the Edmonton police services. [08:31] We run a program within the high schools, called embracing new roads in partnership with blue line racing and the EPS and the old program with the RCMP. We’re trying to reach, you know, our community at a very young age, to show them that these things can be fun in a safe, controlled atmosphere. Then you can kind of take that a step further, kind of on both sides of the spectrum, we start a program called the Nitro routes, where kids can begin to race on the drag strip at seven years old. We have about 50 kids that competes every weekend. These guys are going anywhere from 50 to 90 miles an hour, in 650 feet, right? These are really, really impressive kids. What that program offers is, again, I want to stay away from the word training because that sounds like oh, my God, I’m going to school.
[09:30] The camaraderie is amazing. The safety aspect is amazing what they learn about a vehicle, just transcends to when they’re older, and they do get a license. They’re not the kids that are speeding up in the street because they can do that, like they’ve already experienced that but they have a lot of respect for their vehicle, which I think is lacking in our community, is a general understanding and knowledge of how your vehicle may work. And the respect for what that power can entail. These kids start at seven, by the time they’re 16, it’s just ingrained, you know. So it’s a really amazing program. Those 16 year olds, the kids that are in our nature routes program, 80% of them transcend into a bigger program, which again, kind of goes to what we’re doing on our road course. We run motorcycle track attacks, so you can come out, we don’t teach you how to ride a motorcycle, you’re being taught how to ride a motorcycle better. It’s the finesse, it’s the safety aspect, it’s how to manage the turns or the braking aspects. Again, that’s broken into novice intermediate advanced right up to a racer.
We do the same thing in our track junkies, programs with vehicles as well. So with full size cars, so you can come in you have your in car coach, and most people have absolutely no idea of the capabilities of their vehicles. We want to show them the capabilities of their own vehicle and themselves. A lot of it is intimidation. It’s not just intimidation on track, it’s amazing how many people are intimidated on the road. Okay, well, let’s get that out of your system really quickly. Because you’re the one in control, and that’s what we want to really instill when people come to us is that, okay, you’re in control, and your decisions are what’s going to make you both a better rider or driver, or just a better competitor, if you want to go that route.
There’s lots that we get engaged in. This year, we’re looking at doing a much enhanced training on our motocross as well. So there’s a huge gap in our community. We have a motocross property. We’re going to be doing training that starts with the little ones that are five or six years old. It’s a real learn to ride program. Like, here’s where your break is, and, going right up to that high level competition. You know, again, it’s one of those things COVID. I don’t think a lot of people are jumping let’s say the typical previous training programs that existed, were large manufacturers that put these programs on. They’re not entitled to because of so many restrictions. Corporations are just kind of saying no, not until things are better. But, so many people are looking for independent or solo recreation type things they can do with their family, quads, motorcycles, motocross, dirt bikes. Those are huge factor. [12:59] We just want to make sure that, you know, we can give back to our community, a good safety aspect, don’t go out and just buy a dirt bike, and not know how to ride it, because you’re going to get hurt out in the field. So we’re going to put that training aspect in for 2021 as well.
Tarah: That’s amazing. My seven year old daughter is Mom, is it fun to drive cars, is it fun, so she’s already kind of an interest. I’ll definitely have to like in that. My son is like saving up his money for a dirt bike. He’s saving money for his dirt bike. I will have to be checking out some of these programs because I have no idea about it. I know how to drive my car, and I know how to drive a stick. And that’s about it. We’ve been in and we’ve watched and we’ve been to a couple of your events. It’s such an amazing atmosphere and everybody like the culture of like, not just the people on the track. But when you walk around, everybody’s just so fun and like so much conversation and they just share and come look and come see and it’s such a community that yeah, I think it’s fantastic.
Kimberly: That’s one of our things. [14:06] We’d like to say our dressing room is always open. You got to other sporting, venues, and you don’t get to interact with the players. We want our fans to interact with the players and so do the racers. They love meeting the fans like it’s, that’s huge for them. They’re honored, they do this, because they’re passionate about it. To share that passion is a pretty big deal to our participants that are out there.
Tarah: Yeah, no, so when you were a little girl, were you like yes, I was into cars and I wanted to own a racetrack or how did that work for you?
Kimberly: You know what? Strangely enough. Yeah. My dad was a big car guy. You know, so it was always kind of there in my life. He was in car shows. He used to drag race. I’m from the East Coast, we would go on weekends when I was little to the races, which I just thought were, super cool at the time. I remember watching, heart like a wheel, the Shirley Muldowney story, and six pack with Kenny Rogers. Probably one of like the worst movies of all time, loved it, loved it loved it. I did grow up around motorsports. Then I moved out west. I went to what was then Capitol Raceway a few times as a fan. Well, quite a few times as a fan. Ironically enough, I met Mr. Clarence Shields, and he hired me.
I actually was the first employee when the race track was purchased in 1998 by that group of 10, so what was capital raceway unfortunately, went into bankruptcy, receivership with the bank and a group of 10 came together and bought that track to keep motorsport alive in our region. I mean, I was fortunate enough to within a couple years, I married the man who’s the president. Which has its ups and downs, I’ve been working with him now for 25 years. We work alongside of each other every day, you know, so there really is a 24/7 aspect to our lives, because we work together, we play together. Both of our boys are very involved in motor sports. Rob’s oldest actually started our drift program 15 years ago. Our 20 year old went right through the Nitro rats program, and now he’s running in top eliminator.
It’s a very family oriented business for us. We do this because we really, truly enjoy it. You were talking about community and people being happy. Our lifelong friends we’ve made, there and it’s not just people we work with, these are not just people that are, acquaintances. We live together all summer. I mean, you want to talk about a cohort of about 1000. Because you’re gonna show up May 1, and we don’t leave until October 1. My dad he flies in from the east coast every year to our Rocky Mountain nationals, because, of course, his grandson is running in it. You kind of have a few generations there that are passionate about the recreation side about that community side. I don’t race myself, personally, I don’t have a need for speed. I like event coordinating.
I would be more of a car show cruisin kind of girl give me some beautiful chrome and let me drive slow down the road. That’s more where my you know, my husband and my son both have a hardcore Need for Speed. But I do love the community of who we are and what we get involved with.
Tarah: That’s so so awesome that it became this family affair as well. If you could do anything else? What would you do?
Kimberly: I’d work for Disney.
Tarah: Go on some holidays?
Kimberly: My dream retirement job is I want to be a character escort. But I don’t think there’s anything else I would do. You know, I love the creativity that, you know, our business allows me. I love how I get to engage in so many things that aren’t just pigeon holed into motorsport, because no two even motorsport events are the same. I love the reach of that type of thing. I love the opportunities that it gives us to travel both regionally and internationally. I communicate and have friends with, many different motorsport venues throughout North America. That part of it is is really interesting. We just dig it. We generally like what we do. But yeah, when I retire, Disney character escort. The best job in the whole wide world, I’m sure.
Tarah: Awesome. What have you learned about yourself then through like all the changes in the adaptations and the growing of your business?
Kimberly: Well, you probably hit the nail on the head when you said adaptations. What have I learned about myself that if you need to be reactive, and best you learn how to do things in a pinch. Am I going to be the best cook? Never. If somebody doesn’t show up in my working in the concession? You betcha. Same with slinging beer, working in an ET booth. I mean, you just have to be so reactive. But I think that’s with anybody who owns their own business, you have to be able to do those jobs. I’m not necessarily going to be the best at it. I have staff that are so much more efficient at many things than I am. I like being able to work with them. Taking what my vision is, and letting them create it to best meet the needs. I think if I learned anything about myself, it’s that I can one accomplish anything.
Just not necessarily as well as everybody else. But it can be done, if you focus and you work hard, you can make things happen. Then I would say that the creativity, you know, is probably the biggest piece of that puzzle. I got 300 acres, envisioning something, and then making it a reality, and having that freedom to be creative with what I do in a day, that’s brilliant to me. I love the creative aspect of it. I love new ideas, I love working with other people. I don’t know, if I that’s answering your question appropriately. What did I learn about myself, I learned I’m definitely probably a little bit stubborn, a little bit stubborn, I like to get my own way. I’ve probably learned that I’m a little loud at times,
Tarah: You’re speaking to the choir. I am very loud.
Kimberly: So I think, there’s a balance there that most are necessary in life, not just in what we do as a business, just to kind of have that balance. But for me, like I say, learning that I have these opportunities to be creative in my thinking is, is probably the biggest piece of the puzzle about my job that I love the most, that in any other universe, I may not have that opportunity.
Tarah: Well, I think it speaks volumes for the type of leader that you are when you said that I have a vision and then I share it and you let collaboration happen within your space. I think that that speaks volumes for the kind of boss and leader that you are that you allow that to evolve.
Kimberly: Well I would love to say that, like, I am brilliant. I did it all alone. I think of everything, but that’s just not the case. If you don’t have a strong team, and, I think our team is, we have kind of our core operations team, that contribute every single day. Then we have seasonal teams that come into play as well. It’s amazing, because they’re always a new set of eyes. You know, we have about 80% retention on that seasonal team. But they come in six months later, and they see things and they just have like, what about this? It’s like, oh, that’s a very good idea. You might be trying to like, say get creative and think how to make something work. But like I say our core operations team and our seasonal team, they come up with some brilliant stuff. We’re close enough. Nobody’s ever scared to share their info. Or shoot you down if they think your idea’s not good.
Tarah: I’ve worked in places where you’re like, no, I can’t say or I’ve said and it shot me in the foot because now they think I’m competition. It’s great that they can come in and be like, no, hey, this is this and you should try this or what does this look like. I think that’s fantastic. I think it speaks volumes to the culture as well just for attending. It’s seeps down and you feel welcomed and you feel like a community and camaraderie when you walk around. I think that speaks volumes.
Kimberly: Well, you know what our fans the people who come to watch it events are as passionate about what they’re watching as the participants themselves. More often than not, again, they’re a whole other set of eyes. They see things from a perspective, that as owner operator, I may never envision. I do try to put myself in the fans footsteps as often as I can. But the reality is, is that I’m never going to have that same first impression, or just seeing things from there. When we get emails, or you know, something on social media, and it’s like, oh, you know what, let’s do that. The fans also contribute to, the business overall.
They have thoughts, especially in the day of social media. You know, all of their thoughts. But, it is nice if I look at what, you know, social media has done for us, or any business, I would have to imagine, is that there is just that candid conversation with your end user. Who is that? A fan, a racer, a sponsor, a corporate client, or guest, you know, they’re free to share. We gained some really great perspective and some great ideas that way.
Tarah: Have you had any pushback? Like when you said, you were going to evolve and create different things? They’re like, oh, my God, that’s crazy. Don’t do that, or, for the most part, or what was that experience like?
Kimberly: I don’t think so. I don’t think we have any major pushback, to be honest with you. We don’t make decisions lightly for our business. We actually, aggressively go and ask staff or ask racers or ask, what about this? What about that? When I think about pushback within our own community, I can’t honestly say that we’ve had that experience only because we do have a very candid open relationship with our staff, with our racers, with our sponsors. We chat with them, some of them are really great friends. Some are acquaintances, but there, none of them have a, you know, issue picking up the phone. If I had to think about what pushback we do receive as a business. It’s probably that even to this day, it’s nowhere near where it was when we started, but a stigma associated with motorsports.
Kind of redneck and, maybe not corporately, associated bull. That’s not the case. When we did start this business, that was something that was a challenge, was opening that communication with new fans, new businesses that, we are able to showcase in a professional manner. This isn’t a bunch of, just people that are not necessarily what envisioned on TV or in movies. Those are fiction. At the end of the day, you don’t get a hobby in motorsport, because you’re unsuccessful. I mean, it’s an expensive adventure. There’s no doubt about that. When you think about a family going out to buy a new car, that’s a pretty big thing to go purchase a new car. Now imagine you’re going to purchase a new car that you only get to drive 15 times a year. You have to make a pretty sound decision. Our racing community is smart. You can’t race stupid. You’re you’re going to be the guy that crashes. You’re not going to be the guy that competes. They don’t, you know, exist. I mean, you have to be a very successful, driven, focused individual to engage in motorsports as a participant.
We’re a very recreational track versus, a high high level of professional. We’re not NASCAR. We’re not trying to be NASCAR. We’re never going to give away a million dollar prize. Well, maybe not never. But when you choose this as a recreational pastime, that you do it with your family, again, smart, dedicated, focused. They’re all come out to the facility with a level of professionalism, that is beyond what I’ve seen in any other sport to be quite honest. Because our decisions are so dramatic, you’re looking at such a safety, aspects, cars go, boom, it happens. You have to have that level of professionalism. Kind of going back to your question, I’m all over the map here a little bit. What that pushback might be it was definitely 20 years ago, just the stigma associated with racing or motorsport, which today is nowhere near where it was, but it still comes up.
Tarah: When you were talking about like, NASCAR, is it kind of like different sports where they have different levels of professionals? Or like different races? Or is motor like sport the same kind of way?
Kimberly: Absolutely, yeah. You can’t just jump in a, you know, 200 mile an hour car, we don’t let that happen, you have to graduate into that. There are sanctioning bodies. If I take drag racing, the National Hot Rod Association is the North American sanctioning body that dictates the rules and regulations and safety aspects. You do need to go through a process and steps to be able to enhance and move forward into a higher professional class category. We do licensing in our own place. But I mean, when you look at those professional cars, that’s your job, you have no other job. I don’t know if there’s anybody in Canada, their only job is racing. That’s what I consider that professional category. To be quite honest, that type of motorsport participant is very, very few and far between.
That is what you’re gonna see on TV. There’s what a handful of f1 teams, a handful of NASCAR teams, a handful of drag racing teams. But it’s, it’s not a reality in our region. I mean, I think there’s maybe one, two, like there’s an f1 race in Montreal, where they would have that level of professionalism. Even if you’re not going, let’s say 320 miles an hour, our competitors going 190 to 200 miles an hour compete at that same professional level, but they also have a day job. Most of them work Monday through Friday. When I talk about, like a level of professionalism, it’s not that our participants aren’t professional in what they do. It’s that it’s not their primary occupation.
Tarah: Well, I think, though, that also comes to the environment that it creates, because it’s a hobby. It’s a passion, it’s not a paycheck. Like there’s, I think that plays into that community and how it feels and how they interact with each other when it’s a Passion Driven versus a paycheck driven environment.
Kimberly: Well, absolutely. You see it often. Well you see it all the time, as the person that you’re competing against, you’re going to lend them tools, you’re going to lend them parts. You’re you’re going to swap paints, maybe if you’re out on the road course There’s nothing wrong with the competition, but at the end of the day, it is one solid community, which is brilliant. And again, talking to
have, things put in place that are part swaps. Kids grow at that age. Helmets, fire suits, racing shoes, racing cars. They’re very community oriented that way, and the people that you were competing against 20 minutes ago, you might be up and cheering for them now. It’s pretty fun. That community is spectacular, in those regards.1 Saturday nights at our place historically pre COVID are a big family. There’s a lot of barbecues going on, and everybody’s zooming around in their golf carts and going for visits. It’s very social, in the fact that, you have that shared experience. It’s something to, bring everyone together. Then tomorrow morning, you wake up and we’re gonna compete.
Tarah: [35:20] I can’t say how surprised I was when we got to walk around and see the cars. That’s not in my head. I had that stigma of like, I sit on the bleachers, like they do it on, like the TV show, and I got to watch. Then I go, and I hit the concession, and I’m out, but they’re like, no, you can walk around. I was so excited. I was really surprised. It inspired me to look more into, like what you provide, because it’s nothing like you go to see other sports, you go to stand in line as they walk from the bench to the dressing room. Like that’s it. That’s all you get. It’s community and like, yeah, you’re right, there’s barbecues. There was like, hey, how you doing? Come check and look at this. You’re just like, can I touch it? Really? Am I allowed to? I was so surprised.
Kimberly: We love to show off. There’s no doubt about it. Racers love to show off. Look at my new paint job or look at my new engine. Totally love to show off. There’s no doubt about that. COVID is obviously putting a big challenge into that fan experience. That opportunity to share the experience with our fans for 23 years has been you know what we’ve built our business on. Probably this year, yeah, you’re gonna have to sit in the stands with your mask and don’t move.
Hopefullt that;s not the case. I’m still very optimistic. Every day I’m optimistic about what’s what’s happening. [37:00] That shared experience with the guest is probably going to be diminished this year, over what we pride ourselves on. It’s what creates the joy. We have a big playground, and bringing up vendors and I mean, everybody loves the track burger and the soft ice cream. You walk around and kids have, little flags. It’s silly, and it’s fun, and it’s engaging. Breaks my heart that we may not get that opportunity this season. I’m just crossing my fingers and working really hard right now to get fans in the stands.
Tarah: How do you keep motivated when the days get hard? Like when you have those moments? What keeps you motivated?
Kimberly: Oh, that’s a toughy. What keeps me motivated? It was sugar. I don’t know if I get unmotivated that often. When I look at work stuff. If I have a you know, a stressful day, or maybe a project I’m working on that’s challenging, I just turn it off. Walk away. Ultimately go back at it the next day. You know, I just take my mind and bring it elsewhere, read a book, paint a picture, watch TV. I mean, previously I’d go for cocktails with my girlfriends. Like, okay, I’m not thinking about work for a few hours. Then just, revisit it. Again, I’m really, really lucky that we have such an amazing team. I’m very lucky that I work with my husband, he is as much as I’m hot and cold. He is very level headed. That’s actually, you know, a really great bonus. If I’m peeking up here, maybe frustrated, he’ll bring it down a little bit. Our son is very involved in the business, not just as a participant, but it gets involved in the day to day. Sometimes Ill just throw ideas off of him throw ideas off of our team. But most of the time if I’m having a moment, and I need motivation, I just close the book and walk away.
Tarah: That’s fair, come back in a new light and a new mindset. So how do you celebrate your wins Disneyland? Cocktails?
Kimberly: You have both. Cocktails is Disneyland the ultimate experience. That is awesome. We celebrate a lot as a family, we celebrate a lot of the community. Yeah, definitely. But you hit the nail on the head. Those are my two favorite things.
Tarah: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I do know from experience that you do like a lot of team events too. You celebrate with your team and you share that environment and that celebration, like very well with the community that you create.
Kimberly: Last year, we had some fun. Normally, at the end of the season, we have a wrap up kind of party banquet to do our champions and recognize our staff, that type of thing. We couldn’t do that last year. We did the six foot celebration in our staging lanes, and everybody was on their respective golf carts. We’re throwing trophies at people. It was actually a lot of fun. What we realized in that moment was, the celebration was just about being with the people not about how being fancy or what the food was at a dinner or a banquet, it was just sharing those moments. We actually had a really good time. We’re gonna continue that COVID or not, we’re just gonna continue doing it the way we want to do it, which is just sharing that space, and that experience with the people that we share our summers with.
Tarah: That’s fantastic. So where would you like to see your business in the next five years? You said, you had a couple things in the works?
Kimberly: That is a tough one. I probably could have answered it very differently a year ago. Right now I want to see it open. I mean, we are in a very, like, so many, precarious stage in our economy. We have so many aspects. One, we’re seasonal. The magic of lights helps balance that, uh, definitely did this year. Being able to do more in the winter, which we were always busy in the winter with private events for manufacturers, but those manufacturers aren’t doing anything right now. We normally have 100. 250 staff, and this year, we had like, 30. Because we wanted to at least keep them busy. That hurts me personally, because those are people that have supported us for two decades, that I wasn’t able to support in turn.
We weren’t permitted to host a ton of events. Not that we weren’t permitted with 200 fans, I cannot bring in eight monster trucks. It’s just those monster trucks are very expensive. We need a full set of stands. I think if I had to look at, you know, a five year plan, that plan would be over the next two years to get back to what would be somewhat normal. By that time, I anticipate our facility is going to need some pretty dramatic capital improvements. Because we didn’t lose anything last year, but we didn’t make anything. When I look at, those capital improvements that we’d like to do every year, even as simple as you know, fresh paint new flowers. I didn’t put any flowers out this year. We put flowers out every year.
But it was like, okay, first nobody’s coming to look at it. Second, it was like, okay, there’s an expense that I can’t justify. If I’m looking, you know, five years down the road, the biggest piece of the puzzle would be to have our community sustainable in this pandemic, and with restrictions and things like that moving forward. But ultimately, we’re actually, you know, ready as a family to hand the reins over to somebody else. I think fresh perspective, there is so much that could be done at that property in that facility. We will not hand the reins off to anybody that we don’t know, trust and love. It’s who we are as people. But you know, we are exploring those options. Exploring them, very consciously and seriously. Music is full entertainment, complex music venues, trade shows.
There’s so many things that could potentially happen. That candidly, I’m not necessarily mentally there. I don’t want to take on those projects. There’s projects that I love projects that I only do things that personally enhance my life at this point. Where as there are things that could enhance the business, but not necessarily that I want to be involved in. Somebody else who’s willing to come on board, take those reins, and do things that aren’t necessarily for personal gratification. Because that’s where, we’re at is, 25 years ago, when we started this, it was about the business. Now, it’s about us like about how, you know, it gives us not not that it’s about us that didn’t come out, right. But how it impacts our lives, and who we want to be in a community and what our legacy would be in that community aspect and the training aspect, and, creating a safe environment is what’s the most important thing to me right now. Doing a music festival? It’s not really for me.
Tarah: No, I but I can say that for sure. For the passion that that started to evolve for you, and how you and how it’s worked for you, I can definitely see that that’s something that would be valued to the area. But yeah, I can definitely see that it’s not quite where your heartstrings, and where you would be motivated and pumped up to create events like that. I can definitely see how that would fit for you.
Kimberly: Yeah, exactly. If you asked me in a year’s time, if COVID is different than mine perspective, could be different. Right now, my perspective is truly quite narrow, you know, it’s just about sustainability in the community that we’ve built. Thinking beyond that, at this point is really tough. Really tough. How can you think about what’s happening? Like I say, if you asked me that a year ago, I would have had a very, very fine plan for you. I hope we’re open. I hope we can employ people. I hope our racers still have a place to play. I hope that we can still engage our community and keep our streets safe, all of those things.
Tarah: Given that you’re in your own vehicle, is there things that you can still do this summer, like with the training things or like, so what is still available?
Kimberly: Right now, we have a very comprehensive schedule, like, I want to say I got about 170 events on the calendar. Not as many as previous years, but there’s some, a lot of those would be manufacturer type things. So manufacturers are just not doing the same engagement. Because they would travel, and go across Canada and do fleet product previews, that type of thing.
Tarah: So people who build the cars is what you mean by manufacturer?
Kimberly: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Street legal program. Absolutely. Like our drag racing program, track junkies motorcycle Track Attack, I mean, all of that. Because they’re solo, individual participant based, we didn’t have challenges on that side of things last year. Our challenge is fans in the stands. With the ahs guidance for motor raceways last year, we were able to open and operate for participant based events. Because it’s just one guy car or on a bike. I mean, the physical interaction was null and void. They have crew members that they participate with, but I mean, everybody was, you know, I mean, in crew has to maintain six foot distancing. I mean, everybody was very respectful. It just wasn’t a challenge that we had, right? We didn’t have to beat anybody with a stick to get them to adhere to guidelines. Thank goodness. Because you just don’t know. But again, our community is this is their place to play. They don’t want to wreck it.
That side of things, participant based events, we’ll move forward, no problem. Whether or not we can have fans in the stands is going to be the the biggest challenge and that dictates a lot of those events that are of course, for fun family entertainment, Hot August night, I mean, that’s a 13,000 person evening. It’s a lot of fun, and monster truck throwdown, you know, that’s three days of intense monster trucks. Rocky Mountain National. There’s a lot of those that are so unpredictable, they’re on our calendar. We do have some Plan B’s in place. I work with many of the motorsport facilities here in Alberta, and even in Western Canada. We made our first appeal last week, to AHS for an enhanced capacity, guidance where we would be still providing the physical distancing, doing the six person per order type of thing.
But last year, we had 200 fans. We’re looking for, a variable content, where it can be based on, you know, the capacity, a percentage of that capacity while maintaining the six foot distancing. All of those things that would come into play, that would be similar in par to a restaurant, or restaurants, probably the perfect opportunity, because if your restaurant only holds 20 people, then this is how many you can fit and still maintain physical distancing. If your restaurant holds 100 people, well, your capacity expands, they don’t have a capacity cap. It’s based on your square footage, and what you can accommodate within those squares. That’s what we are tryinglobby to AHS. The same with outdoor recreation, you could go to many parks, and there was no capacity restriction at parks. Well, my property is bigger than any park outside of a national park, and I still was only permitted 200 fans.
That’s my primary focus right now is just to work for that live entertainment restriction of a 200 person cap to be lifted. It just doesn’t make sense. Because no, two venues are the same.
Tarah: No, for sure. No. 100% Yeah, there you have a lot of space. For sure, at a playground, there’s way up there. The playground is a lot different.
Kimberly: Both our playgorunds last year, it was heartbreaking. You just put like fence up around it. It was absolutely heartbreaking to, not have, I mean, we have balloon twisters and face painters in the playground, and we have jumpy castles, and all of those things are just right. That engagements it was really, really tough. I don’t foresee that it’s going to change dramatically for the season. But I do hope we can welcome a much greater, capacity for our spectators.
Tarah: Well, I’m still glad that you still are able to provide some hobby, because it is something that we need as a community to still be able to experience hobby and passion and not. I’m glad that that’s still open for for the community that you’ve created.
Kimberly: Well, absolutely. There is a direct correlation with safestreets in the programs that we offer. Programs right across North America that are offered at a multitude of venues, and particularly with COVID-19. I mean, you know, stunting, speeding all of those increased, like 30 to 35%. Iit was Wow, crazy, right? Like the numbers, the EPS team would be able to tell you those numbers bang on, and they see those numbers drop. Like there is a direct correlation to those programs that we offer for both cars and bikes, and safe streets. There’s decades that prove that this is, last year, I guess our thing was, we may not be essential, but we are fundamental. It depends on what your idea of essential is. If, you know giving people a greater capacity to understand a motor vehicle, giving them an opportunity or a location to spread their wings, get that little bit of Need for Speed in a safe controlled atmosphere, then I do feel that that’s essential to our community. But we’re definitely fundamental and we know that.
There is science to back that up. We’re thrilled that we can continue down that road. they’re immensely popular programs. Again, it was real tough last year because there was restrictions. There was times we had to turn people away that breaks my heart, not just because the business and the money, but because they actually want to participate and being told no. It’s tough.
Tarah: Well, it’s a good silver lining, though, that the there’s so much fact of proof now about what it can do for the Safe Streets versus, over two years ago to this year. Like there’s, there’s stats, there’s figures, there’s things that you can use with.
Kimberly: Yeah, no, there there is a direct correlation. But yeah, there’s all kinds of pandemic. I tried to look at the silver lining every day. If not, I think I would go crazy. Last year. I got to tell people, we’re sold out at every event. First time in 24 years.
Tarah: Yeah, it’s a silver lining at a breakpoint. There’s no doubt about that.
Kimberly: Great is like, okay, I gotta take something right.
Tarah: Like, as much as you’re in the liberal community, like you must get people from all over then.
Kimberly: Absolutely. You know, I track our demographics, pretty closely. About 40% of our attendance straight across the board, but fan, participant and even amongst our different venues, is from what I call our Backyardigans. That would for the most part be Leduc County. About 40% of our attendance is from, you know, I mean, and that includes the [inaudible 56:59] that kind of thing. About 40% from Edmonton proper, and about 20% is outside of that, like 100 mile radius. They’re coming from Calgary or, that type of thing. Fort McMurray Lloydminster. But yeah, you know, like I say, 40% of our core demographic is from the Leduc County black gold district areas. We’re pretty honored to have that support from the people who are in our backyard. That means a lot to us.
Tarah: Given all these people coming in from out of area, if you had to pick a place for them to go eat, where would you pick?
Kimberly: Oh definitely Blackjacks. So if you want to get the full race experience, I mean, he’s got cars hanging from the ceiling. He’s got signs on his wall from when we first opened. He talked about this already. But of course, Clarence Shields, a little bit of our history is the facility itself went into bankruptcy in 1997. A group of 10 local businessmen came together. They actually purchased it and started on the lease in September of 1997, and opened the doors in June of 1998. Clarence Shields was one of those original 10. Even previous to his initial owning and operating in those first few years that we opened, Clarence was very, very involved in the motorsport community. When it was Capitol Raceway, he was engaged quite often, which is where I first had, you know, the opportunity to meet Clarence many, many years ago. Throughout these last, you know, two and a half decades, he’s become a very, very important part of our lives.
He really does make his environments engaging to both the racer and participant and fans. I mean, if you want to see a cool history of motorsports, I mean, he’s got a museum going on there. It’s fantastic. And of course, you know, what the food is always top shelf. You’re never gonna walk away hungry, that’s for sure. It’s good, it’s hot. It’s what you want kind of for that day, I mean, if you want an awesome burger, and you know he used to do these amazing buffets. I don’t know what the buffet thing is allowed right now. But yeah, like, awesome, awesome place and all of the people that work at Blackjacks, all know, the race track. They’re all engaged. A lot of them will come out and actually work for us on our big weekends. We call Clarence and it’s like, hey, so I need 10 more servers this weekend. His staff, his daughter, are all been very much engaged. So yeah if you want a place to eat at the end of the day, which I think I said to you earlier is a very unfair question. So much good food in Leduc. But really, you gotta go to Blackjacks. It’s a motorsport Museum, why would you not?
Tarah: Well, and I just love the fact that our business owners, like collaborate, and it’s not just a business, but the people behind the business have become friends and they team up and they create a better space for all of us that as patrons. We have no idea of that. I’m so excited and passionate that that’s kind of evolved from this podcast is that we’re seeing that side of business and people. I don’t know, it warms my heart to know that it’s not just standalone businesses that we see when we drive past and I’ve always just imagine this business in this business, but it’s not.
Kimberly: Oh gosh. No, I mean, when I think about like, even especially in the days that we started, the mayor of Leduc, Greg Kreski, at that point, had the liquor store. This was before I had a beer building, you know, I would go to Greg’s liquor store and pick up beer and sell it out of the back of the truck at the racetrack. Clarence would bring stuff from, his locations at the time. We had the the mayor of Leduc at the time. The mayor, of course, this is all like pre COVID. Because so much change right before that season. John Whaley, who was the Leduc county mayor, he used to be part of the rotary that would come out and sell the 50/50s at the racetrack. There was so many people that we got engaged with. The team at the chamber. Oh, my God, they’re so amazing. They’re just lovely, lovely people. It’s just been a joy and a blessing to work with them over the years. Totally missed the gala. That was one of my favorite nights.
When you see, you know, that interaction in the community, there’s so many touch points. I don’t even think about them until you say it. It’s like, oh, yeah, I used to buy beer here. Here’s the two layers of Leduc and Leduc County that definitely were very engaged in our facility for a long, long time. We have so many businesses that I guess we just take for granted, for lack of a better word, yeah, take for granted what’s happening. I mean, our obviously we’re at the airport, you know, the EIA. So there’s a lot of communication and work that we do there with, so many businesses over at the EIA, that are operational. [01:03:03] We’re really, really blessed to have such, an area to have our business in, and that have that community be so supportive of who we are and what we do. So yeah, we’re pretty lucky.
Tarah: That’s awesome. Yeah, I fully agree.
Kimberly: Like, I mean, they start doing it’s like, oh, and then there’s big rig. Yeah. Like, there’s so many that just now that I’m thinking about it, right, pop into my mind. There really is a wonderful collaboration.
Tarah: I’m so excited to showcase them all. So yes, it’s awesome. So if you have a day off, how do you spend it?
Kimberly: Oh, okay. Disney
Tarah: It’s a little bit more than a day off.
Kimberly: won’t lie, we don’t take a lot of days off. It’s our own business. We do have to work every day. So even when it’s a day off, I mean, I constantly monitor what’s happening. I’m checking in on things. It’s not truly a day off. Historically, we would take a week or two and yeah, we would travel, like, get out of town. Because when you’re here when we’re in town, it’s hard to not be engaged. Even when I try to take time, I can’t really help myself but get engaged and my husband is even more so than I am. Like he’s very engaged and he has other businesses. Time off is not a day off. We really try to focus on taking time and just being for us. Versus oh, okay, I’m taking a day off. The beauty of, I guess, having a motor sports track, it’s if I need to go get a pedicure on a Wednesday morning, I do.
Because we work such weird hours, it’s weekends, it’s evenings. I mean, I look at magical lights, that was, what, 60 days straight every night five to 10pm. For us, it’s like, hey, let’s do this. We will just carve out a niche opportunity, which is usually event driven, or like in that event could just be a backyard fire. But like, we make a very strategic plan. Because if there’s no plan, it is very easy to just, well, I’m just gonna go check my email really quick. Then two hours later. So yeah, we just tried to be strategic about planning for ourselves and making time for ourselves. And sticking with it.
Tarah: Well, I really appreciate your time today. It’s been fantastic. It’s really showed I don’t know your passion behind the business like you really are passionate, inspired, and I believe a great leader and boss and a contributor to our community and are something so unique. I didn’t realize you had the little the little kid programs to be fair.
Kimberly: Totally bring your daughter out. You said your daughter just turned seven?
Tarah: Yeah. She’s like, mom is it fun to drive? Not all the time, but every once in a while. She’s like, mom, is it fun? Do you like driving? So like it’s piqued her interest. She’s the only one out of the three kids who asks.
Kimberly: [01:06:46] That’s what we want to cultivate. To have fun living your life in the driver’s seat. It should be enjoyable.
Tarah: Yeah. No, for sure. I’ll definitely have to let her know that there’s something that’s out there that that can get her in there before she’s 16.
Kimberly: She’ll see some other young ladies because they’re both half girls. She’ll be in love.
Tarah: Yeah, no, totally. That’s fantastic. No, so thank you so much for being on our podcast today. I can’t wait to come to an event. Silver lining was going to be a full event silver lining. Thank you so much for listening and supporting our business community. As our world is changing frequently, the businesses that we are interviewing could be at different stages of reopening than when we’ve recorded so please check their websites, give them a call before heading down to the shop. Thank you again for supporting local and keeping our business community alive.