It’s been almost two years since the Badlands Motorsports Project lands were re-zoned from “agricultural” to “direct control”, but other than minor updates from their website, we haven’t heard very much from them. That has led to all sorts of rumours from people “in the know” or people “familiar” with how developments like this go. I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time recently with with those directly involved with the project, so I feel like I’m in a good position to clear some of these rumours and insights up. The truth is, everything you need to know about BMR is on their website: www.badlandsmotorsportsresort.com. From what I hear at the pub, it doesn’t seem like many people read it.
First off… let’s stop referring to it as simply a racetrack. It’s not a racetrack in the conventional sense. It will not host large races. It is not a spectator destination. Calling it a race track creates all kinds of connotations that not only don’t resonate with what the developers have in mind, they make the local residents think that only people named Ricky Bobby will visit the area. If you are looking for a place to run your Spec Miata, this will still be a great place, but don’t expect Indy or Superbike or anything of the like. That intention instead is for a family getaway zone. Parks, homes, other sports facilities, restaurants etc are all part of the plan. It will be a full service community rather than a standalone road course that adds comparatively little benefit to the surrounding community.
The current economic climate in Alberta may have created some unanticipated challenges, but on the other hand with falling oil prices comes a need for non-energy related developments. Badlands Motorsports Resort is a non-energy related development, and a big one. While our new provincial government has done well to raise the ire of many Albertans, some of their initiatives and mandates do align very nicely with a project like BMR: diversity, infrastructure, tourism. Construction prices have fallen. Unemployment rates have risen by 2% in the past year. The timing is right. Those suggesting that this a project that only benefits a few motorsports enthusiasts haven’t truly grasped the depth of what is planned. Projected cost of the development is not just a couple million dollars. We are talking hundreds of millions of dollars for construction, likely thousands of jobs, and then an influx of tourist dollars for decades to come plus a top notch facility that locals can take advantage of… motorsport enthusiast or not.
Environmental considerations are always extremely important for developments of this size, and while the lands that contain the development are beautiful, they are not so sensitive that they should not be developed. In fact, the Hamlet of Rosebud is working on a development west of the BMR site right in the Rosebud River Valley. Environmental considerations for the BMR development certainly are comprehensive and involved, and careful design and planning has been needed to ensure that standards can be met… but they can be. If restrictions were so severe that they prohibited development then the BMR Area Structure Plan, and Land Re-zoning by-laws would not have passed.
But they did pass, so what is the hold up?
Before construction can commence, BMR and Kneehill County must finalize a Development Agreement that looks at all aspects of the project in great detail. As I said, it’s a big project. There are a lot of details. The good news is that the folks at BMR have completed basically all of the analysis and studies required, and on their end are ready to complete the Development Agreement with Kneehill County. Unfortunately, bureaucracies often move quite slowly. So while many Albertans stay home or collect EI benefits, and heavy equipment sits idle in yards and shops, the BMR project sits at the bottom of someone’s desk drawer.
To this point the project has seen a lot of “support in principle” from council members, mayors, and provincial politicians. It’s time for them to step up and actually do something to get shovels in the ground.