One Month Later: Bowl Chatter Grinding My Gears!

Posted by By at 19 November, at 00 : 22 AM Print

So here we are, 7+ years after the word “foreclosure” started hovering over the Speedbowl, including 2 previous times when auctions were scheduled but never happened, and an actual property auction took place on Saturday Oct 18th.  And the way it played out was, on the surface, a Grade-A shocker to say the least.  Only 4 people registered to bid on the property, of which only 2 actually did… and it seems all of them were from the racing community.   Nobody was there from Costco, or from CL&P, or NE Racing Fuels , or from Harvey Industries, or owners from another track…. or any one of the other countless names that were whipped up in the rumor mill like a fresh batch of cotton candy over the last several months.    Just goes to show getting too wrapped up in the rumor mill doesn’t always do much good when things actually play out.

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The foreclosure sign posted roadside at the Waterford Speedbowl prior to auction (Vault Productions photo)

When it was all over, a gentleman named Bruce Bemer from Glastonbury won the auction with a winning bid of $1.75 million, and his consultant Jerry Collett announced within seconds that the intent was to keep the property as a racetrack.  My first reaction was that it was GREAT news!!  Racing at the Waterford Speedbowl just may continue!   My second reaction was – this is far from over, knowing that the winning bid was not as much as the debt owed.    Still, despite the fact that nobody… and I mean nobody, had a clue how the auction was gonna play out, it didn’t change the rumor mill from firing right back up within hours.

I personally attended the auction as I filmed it for our documentary project about the track, then left shortly afterward to head back up to Thompson where we were shooting Sid’s View & where word already got out that Bemer had won the auction and intended on keeping it a race track.  It was only a couple hours later that rumors were already swirling that Bemer was hiring this guy or that guy as promoter.  I mean, really?  Yeah, I know about all the quotes from Bemer about Terry being involved still.  All I can say is I was there when he was answering those questions, and I got no sense whatsoever that Mr. Bemer had a concrete plan at that moment about who was going to run the track.  I for one, will let everything play out over the next few weeks before making any judgements.  But it wasn’t just Terry’s name flying around as who Bemer had lined up to promote the joint.  Several other names were flyin’ out all over the place and I just had to shake my head.  I mean, Bemer successfully flew under everyone’s radar for months leading up to the auction, and now all of a sudden so many people thought they knew who he was gonna have promote the place.  It was kinda comical listening to it all.

All I know right now is that Bruce seems to be a good guy, he came off as very genuine for the brief time I talked to him after the auction and at this point, I’ll take him at his word that he’ll keep it as a racetrack.  IMO it’s just too early to know much else.

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Attorney Garon Camassar conducts the property foreclosure auction on Speedbowl grounds on Oct 18th (Vault Productions photo)

Besides… we gotta go through this whole approval process with the courts… and boy have the reports on this one really got people chirpin’ on social media.  And I gotta be honest, I’m really disheartened by all the personal attacks being unleashed upon Ed DeMuzzio, the one creditor who (within his rights) has filed a complaint, and most likely an appeal as well with the court in attempt to recover the $250,000 he will not get back due to the winning auction bid being well below the total debt that brought about the foreclosure auction.  Ultimately, this means that Bemer can’t get started on anything in terms of operating a race track since he’s not legally the owner yet.

And yeah, that sucks.  Bemer’s eluded to making some renovations and how would any of us not want to see that happen at the shoreline oval.  But the situation isn’t over and Mr. DeMuzzio has every right to do what he’s doing.

I mean, it’s a quarter of a million dollars this guy’s out.  That ain’t chump change, that’s some serious money.  I didn’t really know why Terry Eames owed DeMuzzio this money, when it happened or what the money was used for.  But from DeMuzzio’s quotes in RaceDayCT’s article on the situation, it was around 10 yrs ago and went to things like electronic scoring & website stuff.  Where the money went doesn’t even matter, but it sure seems like he intended on getting the money back.   I’ve read some comments about how the man should just deal with the fact that he made a bad investment.  I mean, really?  How does anyone not directly involved in that transaction know it was an investment in the Speedbowl as opposed to a straight up loan with repayment terms like Rocky Arbitell’s situation?  I’m just stunned at those dismissive suggestions on what DeMuzzio should do about his money lost.  I mean, does it really have to be stated as to how much $250,000 is?  Why wouldn’t you do everything you possibly could to try to recoup that money?  I know I would.  If you owed me $50 bucks and told me to forget about it & consider it a bad investment, I’d think you were a jerk.  This guy’s out a quarter of a million freakin’ dollars!!  And everyone just wants him to go away so we can go racing!

Really?

I mean, what if Terry decided at any time since 2006 that buying the Speedbowl was a bad investment and retired, sold the property at a loss to some corporation that decided to develop the property into something else?  Would that have been OK?  Or is it only appropriate for Mr. DeMuzzio to accept his bad ‘investment’ (as some suggest to call it) because it’s interfering with the racing community’s hopes of the 2015 season.  I mean, really people.  I know we’re all passionate about racing continuing at Waterford, but what’s going through the courts now has nothing to do with next year’s racing schedule.  Yes, it may delay things (or even throw in a do-over auction), but the race season has little to no baring on what will happen in the courts.  Do you really think the judge is gonna use consider the 2015 racing season in any sort of decision?  It’s just not what this is about.

Yeah, most of us in the racing community know that things like schedules & rules & lining up sponsors & touring series dates for next season all need to happen soon and are happening already for track’s without these issues…. but why should DeMuzzio care about that?  He wants his money back.  How excited we are for the 2015 season just doesn’t F’n matter…. it really doesn’t.   Being frustrated about it is understandable, personal attacks towards Mr. DeMuzzio are outta line IMO.

Another thing grinding my gears as I surf social media these days is this suggestion that DeMuzzio should have bid at the auction?  Why?   He’s owed $250K and you’re saying he should have bid 7 times that amount to recoup his money?  Wha????  I understand if that amount won the auction, he’d be owner of a piece of property appraised at over $3mil, but why should he have to do that? (Besides, the auction result seems to reveal that appraisal is a lil’ off).   But why does DeMuzzio have to bid for property he may not want when he just wants his $$ back.  I mean, why didn’t those frustrated about these delays make a bid for about $3 million at the auction so court approval would go through without any hiccups?

It’s a freakin’ foreclosure – these things take time.  It’s not just someone else coming in to run the operations (similar to when Jerry Robinson leased the track from Terry in 2007-2008).   The ownership of the land is changing hands via a foreclosure auction… which was ordered by the courts.  Let’s be real here, the court system is rarely speedy because we have appeal processes in our court systems.   I keep reading these comments like “Bemer won the auction, it’s over, he gets the track”…    I’m mean, that’s just not how it works people.  The winning bid was ALWAYS pending court approval, and an appeal was always a possibility.

I’m actually shocked DeMuzzio was the only one who filed a complaint, as any creditor who didn’t recoup their losses (and he wasn’t the only one) or even Terry himself could have filed a complaint.  Since the winning bid was lower that the debt, it’s really kinda shocking only one did file a complaint.

Maybe I’m the jerk for having such little patience for the lack of knowledge here.  I started my documentary film project on the Speedbowl in 2008, and have done my homework not only for the foreclosure saga in recent times, but every time the track property has changed hands.   Still I’m no expert on foreclosure auctions, but did enough homework to understand that it would be at least 30-60 days before any new property owner would ‘hold the keys’ to the property, so to speak, and begin conducting business.   Anyone who didn’t understand it wasn’t an immediate transaction didn’t really know all the facts of how this could go down.

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The main grandstands of the Waterford Speedbowl (Vault Productions photo)

I’m sure I sound pretty cranky atop my soap box, when in fact I’m pretty excited about how the auction turned out.  I was asked prior to the auction what percentage I thought the track would survive the auction, to which my response was “less than 5%”.  I was miserable thinking I was filming the end of the track I’ve been so passionately involved in for the last 15 years or so.  So without a doubt I’m pretty psyched the track’s future seems much brighter.

But there are some serious entitlement delusions in all these comments I read about the approval of sale process.  Be a little more respectful to a man trying to get back a ton of money he feels he is owed.  If it was me that loaned Terry $250K and I didn’t get my money back after the auction, I’d probably be doing the exact same thing.

I mean let’s just think about this for a second shall we:  What if Bemer & Co. announced they were making it a truck stop after the auction instead of keeping it a racetrack, everyone would be DeMuzzio’s biggest supporters right now with the hopes his complaint would influence the court to order a new auction… and then maybe someone from racing would miraculously win it the next time.  Tell me I’m wrong?

So what it basically comes down to is nobody really cares about any of these people’s financial situations as long as it doesn’t interfere with their racing, to the extent of which personal bashing and judgement on someone else’s financial decisions is acceptable.  I gotta say, that’s pretty selfish on the racing community’s part.  And saddens me to hear it from so many.  As I write this it’s exactly 30 days after the auction, we are still in the middle of the red tape and I know it’s frustrating, but I think a little patience by some would be beneficial for everyone.

So let’s be positive, and although it’ll take longer than we all want, let’s assume for the rest of this rant that sometime soon Mr. Bemer’s bid is approved by the court and he becomes legal owner of the Speedbowl property.  Let me share with you from our historical research of the track about what’s happened the previous times when operational ownership has changed hands.

Quite simply…. Things usually change quite a bit.

For those of you that don’t know, the original ownership group lasted from 1951-1974 in various incarnations, the last of which largely made up of the children of the group who built the track.  Harvey Tattersall Jr bought the track in 1975, leased it to Dick Williams twice & the Arute family once in addition to running it himself several years.  His last lease was to the Korteweg family in 1988, who eventually headed the next property owners in 1989, then to Terry in 1995 as operator, and 2000 as property owner.  With the exclusion of the 2007-08 seasons when Jerry Robinson leased the track from Terry, there were major changes whenever someone new took over.  Some examples are:

  • Sanctioning body of the weekly events changed EACH time
  • Rules for the Modified headlining division changed EACH time
  • Rules for at least 1 supporting division changed or a new division was created EACH time
  • Events & schedule structure changed EACH time
  • Race Director changed EACH time
  • Public Relations changed EACH time

Now I’m not saying any of these changes will happen again.  How the hell do I know?  You’d think, because of the delays from the courts, Bemer may, at least for the first season, just go with what’s been in place to make getting 2015 season under way easier.  But that doesn’t mean he has to.  20 years is a long time that Terry’s been in charge with little change to most of the items above (save maybe the last 2) so it would be understandable if very few expected any drastic changes when we haven’t seen them in 20 years… but this is a major change.  Again, it’s not just operational change, it’s a change in ownership of the land and that’s a HUGE difference.

What made me think of this was back at the auction on Oct 18th when after it was all over and I was one of many people personally thanking Mr. Bemer for announcing his plans to keep it a racetrack.  A bunch of excited Wednesday competitors then began talking to him about what they’d like to see with the Wed series.  I just backed away and thought “who says there’s gonna be a Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday series anymore”.  I mean, that’s Terry’s promotion.  So are other things we are so used to like the Bud Nationals $5K race and the Mid-Season 300.  It just struck me that there may be an assumption that the Wednesday series (or any scheduling structure) is inherent and Bemer would have to continue them.   It doesn’t mean Bemer can’t continue those now-traditional promotions, and if Terry does somehow remain involved, maybe they will continue, but Bemer doesn’t have to continue any of them.  He can do whatever he wants.

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A view of the Speedbowl midway and main gate entrance (Vault Productions photo)

Don’t get me wrong, IMO it’d be smart to keep the Wednesday series.  It has a loyal foundation of competitors & fans.  Hey, Wings & Wheels is actually a Jerry Robinson brain-child which Terry elected to continue when he took the operational control of the track back in 2009, and that was a smart move as it’s still one of the events each year that packs the place.  So it’s not unheard of for promotions to be carried over from one operating team to another… I’m just saying, don’t assume any of them will.  And history has shown that more times than not, they don’t.  I’m also pretty sure a change of operational control also needs approval from NASCAR if Bemer wants to keep it a NWAAS track.  No lock that stays the same either, it could but it’s not inherent.

Talk of renovations is definitely exciting.  I mean, who doesn’t like to hear that?  I loved reading how Bruce wants to replace the fence.  I mean, who complains about the fence?  Is it bad, yeah it’s pretty shotty.  But with foreclosure clouds looming & grandstands blocked off for repair & rough looking bathrooms, who complained about the fence over the last decade?  The fact that he sees that as a safety issue & a necessity to repair is refreshing.  A new set of eyes with the resources to take action… yeah, that sounds cool to me!

I really dont know much more about what Mr. Bemer’s plans are, and I’m sure it won’t be until the court process is over that we’ll get many details.  And that includes whether or not we’ll be back producing Sid’s View on a weekly basis.  We take it as compliment to be asked this so many times since the end of the auction, but again, it’s just way too soon for both my crew and the new Speedbowl regime in waiting to make any decisions.

Lastly, I just hope people take it down a notch with the comments about frustrating court delays.  Any anticipation for what may be new & exciting for the Speedbowl is no reason for Mr. DeMuzzio to not try all available options for him to get his money back.  In fact, as much as I feel he has a right to do what he’s doing, I actually think he’s gonna still end up disgruntled and the sale will be approved by the courts and any appeal denied.  Then again, whatta I know, I thought there was less than 5% chance the track was gonna survive the 1st auction.

So let’s just remember that as much as we love the place, it’s not a historic landmark or public property.  It’s private property with a court-approved sale required to complete this transaction.  These things take time.  If the season started in late May, without a NASCAR sanction and renovations up the wazoo, would that really be all that bad???  I know it’s better than what I  predicted for next season about a month ago!

Patience my friends… stay positive!

Sid

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