The western York County speedway owner who challenged zoning regulations to reopen his track has officially closed the lawn-mower racing course permanently.
Brian Saunders, owner of Phat Bottom Speedway, announced on the track’s Facebook page Tuesday that he would not continue efforts to keep the course open after complaints from neighbors forced it to close earlier this fall.
Saunders said the financial burden of making Phat Bottom comply with the zoning and planning requirements for such a course were just too great.
“It would be required to have handicapped restrooms and basically all the same stuff as the Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Saunders said. “The changes you have to go through to make it legal would add three times what it cost (to operate), and charging $5 a head just isn’t going to cover it.”
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Phat Bottom opened off Jim McCarter Road in 2009 as what Saunders called “a little backyard track.”
Saunders has operated the course for the past year. It hosted several races for souped-up lawnmowers each year until complaints from neighbors led officials to determine the site was not zoned to have a speedway. Frequent visits from sheriff’s deputies responding to noise complaints during races forced Phat Bottom to shut down for the season in September.
Phat Bottom patrons rallied to keep the track open. The York County Council approved the necessary zoning changes, and in recent weeks Saunders had been gathering signatures from neighboring property owners to get an exemption from the subdivision’s covenant allowing the speedway to reopen.
But after a dinner last Saturday drew a smaller than expected crowd, Saunders decided the financial support wasn’t there to continue the fight.
“Most people, whether they’re fans or drivers, think it’s easier to do this than it is,” he said. “I appreciate all the fans who came out, and I hate that we’re not going to be able to reopen.”
Phat Bottom’s closure may not spell the end of lawnmower racing in the region. A go-cart track 15 miles away in Blacksburg may add lawnmowers to its schedule, but Saunders said he won’t be involved in the sport anymore.
As for Phat Bottom, the sound of lawnmower engines will die as it blends more seamlessly into its rural setting.
“I’ve got nine horses, so part of it will become a riding arena,” Saunders said, “and the rest will be hayfields and pastures.”