June 15--CUMBERLAND -- Despite the rich history of auto racing at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority voted Thursday to deny the members of National Road Autosport LLC to hold their annual autocross event on the airport's operational grounds.
The vote on the auto racing event was held during a special meeting of the authority at the airport. The National Road Autosport has been holding races at the airport for the last 11 years until recent concerns over liability and the closing of the airport during the event arose.
"I want to put on a good professional event and be a good steward of the airport," said Mark Boggs, vice president of the autosport group.
Following a presentation on the race by Boggs, and impassioned debate, a vote to submit a Federal Aviation Administration request to have the race on the taxiway portion of the airport did not have enough votes to pass. A second motion was made by Creade Brodie, the airport authority board chair, to allow the racing association to use property outside the operational grounds.
"We let them run anywhere they want outside the fence, I will even further the motion that if they can make this work and they need additional blacktop the airport is willing to throw in $5,000 towards the existing blacktop with a percentage of them getting to race free. That is the fairest we can be. That way that cuts the FAA completely out and we ain't got to shut down no taxiways. We can accommodate them and help them to grow," said Brodie.
That motion passed unanimously.
The autocrossrepresentatives were clearly disappointed with the ruling.
The type of race put on by the National Road Autosport is a two- or three-day event that features a variety of race car classifications making solo timed runs on an obstacle course of highway cones. The cars compete individually to set the best time.
Recently the airport authority became concerned about having the race at the airport based on the possibility of sustaining damages to the hangars. However, Boggs said the autosport group would have $1 million in liability insurance for the event.
"That is something else we may have issue with. It don't near cover a commercial hangar and its contents. If something would happen to that commercial hangar, and something would burn, that would be the end of this airport, period," said Brodie.
Brodie said the hangar by the taxiway contains six planes between $3.5 million to $5 million a piece plus the value of the building.
However, not all of the PHAA members were happy with the decision.
Nicole Wagoner expressed her disappointment with the vote following the meeting.
"I'm disappointed the PHAA board could not agree to the NRA's request to submit the proposal," said Wagoner.
"I made the motion on behalf of the PHAA to submit the NRA proposal form 7460, with amendments that the airport manager, Mr. Ryan Shaffer, felt was necessary to show a clear picture of the event. He expressed interest in having a more detailed submission. The form is necessary to get permission to hold the event and to clarify if holding the event would not adversely affect our funding," she said.
Some members have been under the impression that holding the autocross could jeopardize future funding for the airport, particularly to expand the runway.
"I hope the autocross can remain at the airport due to the uniqueness of the location and the history of the venue. It's important to have a location they can utilize for two to three days to draw the participants from hundreds of miles away," said Wagoner.
Wagoner said the economic impact of having the autocross at the airport over the last 11 years was $60,000 in revenue for mainly nonprofit vendors, the funding of an air cadet scholarship program at $15,000 and a total economic benefit of $3 million to the local hotel, restaurant and entertainment businesses.
Racing has long been a part of the history of the airport.
From 1953 to 1971, events sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America featured auto racing that drew crowds in excess of 40,000 people regularly to Cumberland. Racing greats Roger Penske, Carroll Shelby, Augie Pabst and Skip Barber as well as star hosts like Steve Allen came to Cumberland to be a part of the races.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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