Elko Speedway was supposed to open its season with some big fireworks.
But the Fourth of July event, "Racing Against Racism," was postponed July 2 due to "crowd capacity restrictions."
The New Market track has a seating capacity of 6,000 and is an outdoor venue. However, Gov. Tim Walz' most recent executive order caps caps crowds for outdoor entertainment at 250. That's the same limitations placed on some indoor gatherings like churches and restaurants.
Elko usually opens its season in May, but it's been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is very disappointing to face inconsistent government restrictions," Elko Speedway Owner Tom Ryan said in a press release. "We always put the safety of our fans and drivers first, and there's no doubt we can safely open at 50% capacity."
Ryan said in the release that he's been regular communication with Walz, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove and Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville), citing "there was some indication outdoor entertainment venues could see a modification to crowd limits" prior to the Fourth of July.
“Matt and Steve have been especially helpful and responsive," Ryan said. "There's something wrong when the state's health commissioner acknowledges the coronavirus is spread more easily indoors, but the governor's executive order doesn't reflect this as it applies to outdoor venues.
"There's no consistency," Ryan added. "Being a Minnesota business owner, it’s especially difficult to understand how race tracks in Wisconsin have been allowed for weeks to open without limits on crowd size and haven’t reported any problems, yet we can’t exceed 250 fans.”
The “Racing Against Racism” is expected to be rescheduled. The Fourth of July opener was going to be an Eve of Destruction event, which includes bus races, monster trucks, spectator drags, fireworks and more. Four divisions of racing was also on the docket.
On Elko's website, elkospeedway.com, there multiple interviews about race, sports and society, including ones from former Twins President/CEO Dave St. Peter, WCCO personality Sheletta Brundiddge, NASCAR Vice President of Diversion and Inclusion Brandon Thompson and former Vice President Walter Mondale.
"We are very committed to bringing a better understanding to issues facing our society today," Ryan said. "We look forward to moving ahead with the 'Racing Against Racism' event with the largest crowd safely possible, when we do open."