A pending sale of Hawkeye Downs will mean business as usual at the racetrack and exhibition hall but without the debt, facility officials promised at a Sunday morning news conference.
It was no secret that Hawkeye Downs, which sits on 93 acres in southwest Cedar Rapids, was facing financial troubles, said Julie Kraft, president of the All Iowa Agricultural Association, a private non-profit that oversees the operation.
“We want it to be better but finding the money to do that has been an ongoing challenge,” she told about 75 racers, employees and community members.
That changed Friday when its 12-member board of directors unanimously approved a letter of intent to sell Hawkeye Downs for $2.6 million to Carter Kramer of CellSite Solutions, which describes itself as an industry leader in used, refurbished and surplus telecom equipment.
In addition, CellSite will make $200,000 in improvements to the facilities, Kraft said. The sale, yet to be finalized, will allow CellSite to expand and remain in Cedar Rapids.
“It also will allow Hawkeye Downs to continue to operate here as before” with racing, trade shows, events “and all the gatherings that routinely take place here,” Kraft said. Opened more than eight decades ago, the facility offers bingo, trade shows, concerts, auctions, and other events. It features paved half-mile and quarter-mile racing.
The All Iowa Agricultural Association will lease back the expo halls and racetrack from CellSite Solutions. That will allow the association to retire mortgages and liens, and create an endowment for future improvements, Kraft said.
But after meeting with the board, Kraft said he proposed buying the entire facility and leasing back the racetrack and exposition halls as a way to mutually benefit his business and the community attraction.
Kramer plans to redevelop his business at 1720 I Ave. NE and move his headquarters to the southwest corner of the Hawkeye Downs property.
CellSite, which has operated in Cedar Rapids for about 10 years, has 55 employees with plans to expand to more than 70 in the next two years.