BEFORE: This was always going to be a massive task . . . The abandoned property was overgrown, full of goat head thorns and littered with piles of rubbish. The fences and facilities within the complex were in a severe state of disrepair and the track surface was unrecognizable. To make matters worse, the electrical mains had been condemned and the water pumps were seized, so we had no power or water. All formal permits to use the complex as a speedway had also lapsed.
DURING: Once the sale of the property went through, our first, and most important part of this project, was to begin liaising with the Burdekin Council and Main Roads Departments to reinstate the site as a ‘Motor Sports Facility’. This was a very involved and time-consuming process, with loads of paperwork and consultation! We felt it wasn’t wise to begin rebuilding the infrastructure until the approvals were gained, so we tackled the clean-up instead.
One of our biggest hurdles, is that Pioneer park Speedway is an hour away from Townsville, where we live and run our business. If Rod can get away, he heads down during the week, however due to family and work commitments, we’re both usually only on site during weekends and holidays, doing 14 hour days. We’re completing as much of the physical work as we can ourselves, and therefore are truly grateful to have family, friends, a few die-hard speedway enthusiasts and some generous local businesses providing some support to clean-up and rebuild this complex.
A couple of working bees in the early stages saw huge improvements to the site . . . Preliminary grading of the track’s racing surface commenced, along with mowing, trimming, poisoning and cleaning. Some of the boundary fences were replaced and the existing spectator fence and tyres on the poles around the race track were removed, in preparation for our new catch-fence.
Next began the mammoth task of removing the former caretaker’s compound in the back corner of the complex. This was completed over a number of weekends, with the help of a few mates, some speedway competitors and Tony Sandona, a truly generous Burdekin local who regularly turned up with his backhoe. (We couldn’t have done it without him!) We had to remove the high wooden fences, overgrown gardens, an old caravan, dilapidated dongas, a wrecked car and steel animal pens . . . all surrounded by mountains of rubbish!
During this time, plans for a new control tower had been drawn up and engineered, and Rod had completed the restoration of Brian’s original Ford 4000 tractor, plus overhauled a second-hand grader and a Ford 7910 tractor he’d bought to use at the track.
‘Hodder’s Hill’, a huge spectator mound, also began construction beside turn three at the front of the complex. This structure, built as a legacy to the original owners of Pioneer Park Speedway, was created with the expert help of some local men and their machines – Tony Sandona, Gerard and Jessie Tuffin, Michael and David Pirrone, Warren Jarvis and Shaun Barrett, using tonnes and tonnes of dirt donated by local farmers, the Bugeja Family. Thank you for your tireless efforts, gentlemen!
By this stage, the grounds were tidy and beginning to resemble a speedway complex again. Unfortunately, it was very dry and dusty, as we still had no access to water on site. The battle to poison the goat-head thorns and weeds was on-going.
Pioneer Park Speedway’s approval to operate as a Motor Sport Facility came through on 14 March 2017 . . . What a relief!
This meant it was full steam ahead with the infrastructure. Plans for the new control tower and transportable toilet block were submitted to the Council for approval. Brendan Galvin and the team from Burton Power began installing the new electrical mains and some additional light poles around the track, and Tony Heycock and the team from Lights On (Aust) commenced the rewiring and electrical hook-up of facilities within the complex.
Carl List from Ayr Boring Company generously reconditioned the main water pump and Kelvin Detenon from Tanks Direct sponsored a new water tank, so once Rod had repaired some major plumbing issues and overhauled two irrigators, the property was able to be watered. We are determined to have a lush, green, inviting complex again!
The process of upgrading the catch fence to a 4.5 / 5 star-rated structure also began . . . Forty additional poles were required at intervals around the track, so second-hand railway line was cut to length, staunches were welded on, and these huge, heavy structures were cemented into place. Modifications were made to the existing poles and both track gates were extended in height, before thick cable, impact foam and fencing wire were hung, tensioned and securely attached. The whole task took around 12 weekends to complete.
The former control tower, which was originally relocated from Garbutt Speedway in Townsville, to Pioneer Park Speedway in 1973 (45 years ago), was no longer compliant. With a fond farewell, this was demolished via Tony Sandona and his backhoe, and replaced with a massive new brick control tower. Huge thanks to Shane Roughsedge from SR Concreting NQ, and Brodie Cohen and the guys from Cohen Constructions for donating their time towards the build. Twin Cities Glass and Aluminium, Bradnams, Capral and National Glass, generously sponsored the protective fixed glass, windows and screens.
Once the mains had been replaced, Rod tackled one of the most important tasks – to reinstate the racing track and pits lighting. He bought twelve, second-hand stadium lights, which he refurbished with new mercury vapour bulbs and switching gear + new LED light banks to supplement these. It’s taken some time, and quite a bit of trial and error, but he’s finally achieved the best lighting configuration … Huge thanks to the team at Burton Power for your support with this!
Whilst all of this was being completed, the amenities were also being overhauled to meet current health and safety standards. The only three grandstands which could be salvaged, were repaired, had backs and balustrades added, and wood inserted between the risers. These have been coated with rust-inhibitor and repainted. The bar service room was cleaned, repainted and reroofed, and the large under-cover bar area was paved. The two brick toilet blocks and two canteens were cleaned, repainted and reroofed, and although the toilets have been overhauled, the canteen and bar fit-outs are yet to be completed.
The late Kelvin Detenon from Tanks Direct had generously organized a de-commissioned HINO truck and 3 x 3000L water tanks. Rod sourced additional parts and converted this into a water-truck. He then overhauled and modified the filling station at the main pump . . . Everything works a treat!
The small, dilapidated transportable toilet block in the front paddock was dismantled, removed and replaced with a larger, second-hand structure, brought over by Shaun Edwards from Townsville Towing. This block contains four separate rooms, each with a toilet, shower and basin + a laundry area at one end, which Rod converted into a men’s section. The plumbing hook-up and access to the building is being finalized.
Part of our original Main Roads approval depended on the reconfiguration of the entry and ticketing point within the complex.
Entry into the grounds is still through the original front gate, however ticketing now takes place 90m down the fenced driveway, at the powered, 2 x two-way ticket boxes, which Rod designed and fabricated. This will allow four lanes of traffic to cue if necessary, to eliminate any potential build-up of traffic on the adjoining state-owned roads.
Shane Roughsedge from SR Concreting NQ laid the bases and a few mates helped to sheet the framework. The left-hand ticket box (Lanes 1 & 2) will serve patrons wishing to park in the front paddock. The right-hand ticket box (Lanes 3 & 4) will serve competitors heading to the pits + patrons wishing to park in the back paddock. They just need the electrical hook-up + a fit-out and signage added.
Our upgraded catch fence will allow us to host car-based meetings, so in preparation for this, the pit area has been extended and fenced to service these classes. New LED lights have also been installed throughout the entire pit area.
‘Hodder’s Hill’ has been worked on a few times to increase its size and desired shape. Standing approximately 2.5 m high, it’s around 100m long, with a 10m wide spectator viewing area. (In other words, IT’S HUGE!) Steve Morgan and his off-sider Charlie, from SNR Morgan expertly irrigated the hill, ready for us to lay 1000 square metres of turf along the viewing face … the grass will eventually spread down the back. It looks amazing!
This is the back of the hill (left and right), before grassing . . .
… and the finished product, after 4 solid hours, with nine of us working.
Fast forward a few months of watering, fertilizing, weeding and mowing (that’s Tony Sandona on his ride-on) … Hodder’s Hill is a luxurious, couch-covered, spectator hill with an incredible view of the track!
Work was held up a little, when Cyclone Iris caused some flooding in April 2018 … At least we didn’t need to water for a couple of weeks!
Since then, the catch fence has received a three-day make-over, with a coat of black paint and the removal of the old, irrelevant lights and speakers. The ugly, mouldy, concrete fence will be water-blasted and re-painted white just prior to opening.
It takes me around 4-5 hours a week to mow, but the grass in the complex has spread nicely …
We’ve hired Anthony ‘Spud’ Spataro from Spataro’s Bobcat and Mini Loads, a few times to complete various jobs around the track … Recently, he dug two trenches across the track’s start/finish line, in order for Rod and a few helping hands, to install the wiring for a MYLAPS timing and data system + power to the starting gate mechanism (which previously ran overhead) + a waterline to irrigate the grass in the centre of the track.
Next came time to remove and replace the degraded track surface with 900 tonnes of Mt Kelly binder + sand mix … What a monster effort and help we received from Troy Dennis, Artie Brabon, Bruce Strathdee, Shaun Barrett and Gerard Galvin! Thanks guys.
After the internal fit-out of the control tower and canteens were finalized, and the high tech PA/sound system and track racing lights were installed, track licensing and compliance from Motorcycling Australia and Speedway Australia were sought and approved.
Then it was just the finishing touches and we were ready to rock and roll!