Hi, this is Brian Signor and before I tell the story, of the events following the announcement by the Haase family, of the closing of Riviera Raceway. I would like to tell you of a conversation with Bob and Janet Haase. They came to the office of Signor Trucking to visit about something, I don’t recall what that was, but there is one thing I remember clearly. As I walked Bob and Janet out he turned and said to me (I can see, but it will be after I’m gone, but I can see Riviera Raceway being at the Off Road Ranch). I did mention that comment to my brother Kevin but only in passing.
There were other comments made by people over the next several years and after Bob passed away, there were speculations of Riviera closing. A few people approached and conversations were held privately about the track but Kevin did not really want to talk about or speculate about anything out of respect for the Haase family until they had made the closing official.
The announcement was made in Aug of 2015, that after 50 years of operation, Riviera Raceway was closing. Afterwards Kevin got more visits and calls asking him to consider building a new racetrack. The racing community and many businesses that promised support and help, was enough that Kevin was convinced.
Once the decision was made to build a track, the was some urgency to get something ready for the following spring in order to keep Saturday night racing here in Norfolk. The planning and permitting stage was turning into a lengthy process. Even though materials and equipment were being procured, conduit and pipes being buried along with lights and poles getting ready, nothing was being done as far as getting any dirt moved.
To get things moving we started hauling dirt in late November. The very bottom of what is now the grandstand and concession building is dirt from turn 3 of the Riviera racetrack. The significance of this is not lost on us as this makes a historical connection (figuratively and literally) with 50 years of racing in Norfolk and the need to continue the tradition.
In early December dirt was being moved and even though frost was setting in, the dirt for the grandstand and basic shape of the track was done along with an electrical transformer installed prior to being forced to stop. This was important as it allowed work on the facility to continue (weather permitting) through the winter with mostly volunteer help at night and weekends.
The first blocks on the front stretch was in place on Dec.10th and by mid-December, a water line for the building along with poles and lights were put up in the infield. On January 8th the two lights poles on either side of the future building was able to be placed.
The first poles for the building were put in the ground and construction was started before the end of January. The shell of the building and the catch fence was worked on throughout February. In early march, the blocks were place around the track.
After the frost was out of the ground, work on the plumbing in the building and hauling in clay for the track surface was begun in March.
The first concrete pour happened on March 16th in the building and the drainage pits in the infield. The bottom step of the grandstand was poured on March 19th. These steps were poured one at a time and by March 31st the top step and concrete in the building was done. This left the upper concourse to be poured on April 1st.
At the time concrete was being poured in March, work continued in the building with wiring being put in place prior to insulation and walls. We were less than a month away from opening night with a lot to do. Infield lights needed to have wire run and connected. Pit poles and lights along with pit speakers needed to be done. Scale and parking lot lights needed to be put in place. Plumbing fixtures and stalls had yet to be put in place and infield drain was not finished. Catch fence needed to be completed and grandstand speakers installed.
On April 11th a group of volunteers placed the uprights and c-channel for the grandstand seating. The hand rails were then installed. With work continuing inside and out, the ramp leading to the upper concourse was poured on April 17th.
With work continuing in all facets of the project, the septic tanks were installed on April 22nd and the track lights were turned on for the time. The corner lights were wired and tested on the 23rd. Just 2 days to go before practice night.
A lot of work continued after practice night and up to and after opening night. We amazed ourselves and probably surprised some at what we were able to accomplish in a short time in conditions that weren’t always ideal. There are a lot of people and organizations that helped to get this project done and we appreciate everything they did and continue to do.