Four-time AMA World Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto, a Poulsbo native, will take over operations at Straddleline ORV, the off-road destination and dirt bike track that is situated on the Thurston-Grays Harbor county line off state Route 8.
After seeking bids to take over management where Promoto LLC had left off, Grays Harbor County Commissioners unanimously agreed to let Villopoto and his PNWMX LLC operate the park. They also heard from a second bidder, Scott McFate, a longtime volunteer at Straddleline.
Commissioner Wes Cormier said Monday that both groups made similar pitches on Dec. 6, including plans to slow speeds on the main dirt track to improve safety. But Villopoto’s high profile in the racing community and his attachment to major sponsors, such as Kawasaki and Monster energy drinks, made the difference, Cormier said.
“It came down to who would best market the park,” Cormier said. “I felt like that was an easy pick for me.”
Cormier said Villopoto can send out a tweet and it reaches thousands of people. Villopoto currently has 229,000 Twitter followers, according to his profile.
Although the commission awarded the operations to Villopoto’s group, a contract between them and the county still needs to be worked out and approved.
Cormier has said that he wants to recover the county’s share of the costs for the park and not be in a position of subsidizing it. He couldn’t say how much rent would be under the terms of a new contract, but it likely will be more than the $2,100 per month Promoto LLC paid to operate the 155-acre park.
“We’re more than willing to work with them,” said Cormier about Villopoto and his group.
Among the county’s costs are paying about $18,000 a year in stormwater fees to Thurston County, Cormier said. He’s already met once with Commissioner Bud Blake and said Monday that he hopes to continue that conversation with the new commission in the new year.
It was a relatively quick turnaround for the county to find a new operator after Promoto bowed out in the fall. The county immediately sought bids, wanting the eventual operator to have enough time to get its calendar of races in order for 2017.
“We understand that there is a short window,” Cormier said.
Straddleline ORV also has some new competition. Forest products company Green Diamond Resource has leased more than 15,000 acres to a group called Shelton Dirt Rider LLC, the company announced last week.