Looking back on 31 years

Looking back on 31 years

by David Vodden

With over 31 years in the books I am proud to say that Thunderhill Park is doing far better than most people thought it would when it began. Here is the current report. While income is down for the month of May by 10%, year to date income, January through May, is up 18%.  Expenses for this same period were only up 2% which I know defies all claims by those wanting increases in their prices or to get a raise. This low expense result is because of good management and the realization that the money we make is not ours. While it is hard to earn, it belongs to the track to use in order to ensure its long-term financial success and survival. Our June Billing Report, the one that we present to rental customers at the end of their day, was up 27% over the same June month in 2022. The Balance Sheet remains solid, the kind of “solid” that financial analysts love.  We still have no debt and money in the bank for needed maintenance and expansion. The track is on the books for $23 million but would draw many times that if appraised in the marketplace and compared to other tracks around the country. We have always made a profit at the end of the year.

The 2023 booking schedule shows 314 days rented on the3-mile, 255 rented on the 2-mile and 336 rented on the skid pads. This means we have achieved the equivalent of 905 days of rentals counting each surface as a rental day and there is still time for more.

The big news going on right now is the changing of the guard at the top level. My last day as your CEO and visionary will be December 31, 2023. Matt Busby, formerly of Kentucky Raceway Park and New Orleans Louisiana, a track called NOLA in deference to the nick name for the City, will take over January 1, 2024. Matt and his wife Courtney are moving into a home in downtown Willows where he plans to stay for some time. When next the SFR/SCCA appears at Thunderhill Matt will be well along the way in taking over the operation of the track and the vision for its future. Wish him well and get to know more about how he found his new course in his racing business career, taking on the “Mission of Thunderhill Park!”

My plans after retirement are unconfirmed at this time but will surely be in the business of motorsports. One cannot help but learn a lot when you have the opportunities that I have had for the past 60 plus years.  I find the business of motorsports fascinating and I have enjoyed some meaningful successes along the way. Come say goodbye if you want at the SFR/SCCA October 25-27 season finale. I am trying to race a Miata in that final as a way of putting a cap on that side of my racing passion as well.

Before I leave the position of CEO, I hope to have the 23 garages that are rising from the ground ready and 100% occupied. The first bank of ten are all rented with deposits in place but there seems to be some churn going on regarding the upper 13 garages.  I have some deposits on those garages but not all. Some have said they want a garage which does not count until the deposits are paid and the leases signed. When they are all rented, these garages will add over $200k annually as a new revenue stream to help keep the park open. Also, before I go, I plan to enclose the canopy that is on the northside of the big club house in order to have more office space. The deadline by the end of the year may be optimistic but the job will be started and, hopefully, far along!

After over 35 years of working the mission of Thunderhill Park on a 24/7 schedule there are so many people to thank not only for the opportunity but for their unselfish help they gave along the way. As is typical of a Club, there were many people in the early days who thought the Club should not build a track. Some did not like the people behind the effort including me and Tom McCarthy. Some could only see Thunderhill Park for what it could do for them. The majority, however, shared and supported my long-term vision of making the track a solid player in the recreational motorsports industry. That is what we did! Today, Thunderhill is on target to get even better. In some ways, the track is mostly turn-key with a good book of business, an outstanding reputation in the industry and the staffing to keep things going on an upward trend.

I truly hope that everyone along the way, and especially those who come to Thunderhill in the future, enjoy and support the track. The business will change! Thunderhill will change but it always needs to be on the cutting edge of what comes next so as to maximize its value to the many users, old and new. Thunderhill needs to lead the way to even more new and profitable adventures.

There was a time in the late 80’s when a small group of Club members stood on top of a hill in Glenn County that overlooked the Thunderhill Ranch. The grassy rolling hills flowing in the wind looked the same everywhere around them. It had looked that way since the 1800’s when the then residents traveled up the adjacent two-lane road going from Willows to Elk Creek, Chrome, and Stonyford Lake.  For a few of those present the hills looked like a beautiful, prosperous, potentially great racetrack. I was one of those few. It has been fun, rewarding, challenging and at times, frustrating but now it is done, at least for me!