Business

Hawkeye Downs officially sold to CellSite Solutions

The sun sets over the grandstand at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids in May. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The sun sets over the grandstand at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids in May. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids’ racetrack and exhibition hall now are formally under new ownership.

Used telecommunications equipment supplier CellSite Solutions closed on a $2.6 million deal to buy Hawkeye Downs Speedway and Expo Center from the All Iowa Agricultural Association, the not-for-profit’s president, Julie Kraft, said in a news release Friday.

The two parties in late September announced the planned transaction for the 93.98-acre property, describing it as a mutually beneficial move.

Hawkeye Downs, which will lease the racetrack and expo halls back from CellSite, plans to continue its racing and other events, while using the sale to pay down debt and create an endowment fund for future improvements.

“Hawkeye Downs has a rich history in our community and our board members take that seriously,” Kraft said in her release. “We know many people have fond memories here.

“It’s our intent to make Hawkeye Downs be the best it can be, so it can be around for many more years. The sale of our property to CellSite Solutions makes that possible.”

CellSite will build a 60,000-square-foot new headquarters, more than tripling the space its current 18,000-square-foot location at 1720 I Ave. NE offers, with room to expand if it needs a few acres of outdoor storage space.

“Our company is growing and we needed ground to expand upon,” company President Carter Kramer said. “Acquiring this property allows us to stay in Cedar Rapids with plenty of room to grow in the future.

“Plus, it’ll be pretty cool to have a racetrack right out our front door.”

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Before its acquisition, CellSite already had started carrying out a planned $200,000 in capital improvements for Hawkeye Downs, with a $70,000 project in December to repair and replace the north expo hall’s roof.

CellSite is expected to move from its current headquarters to a temporary facility this spring, and build the new headquarters at Hawkeye Downs between August and July 2021, with help from $683,000 in city and state tax incentives.

Following recent environmental tests, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has said it must approve a soil management plan if a construction project will involve digging on a 17-acre portion of the Hawkeye Downs site, where fly ash pollutants appear to be buried, or if workers find new contaminated areas.

Hawkeye Downs officials on Friday heralded their new arrangement with CellSite as a “unique partnership between a private company and a nonprofit organization.”

“We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Carter Kramer and CellSite Solutions,” said Kevin Korsmo, Hawkeye Downs’ racing director. “Carter has a contagious enthusiasm for racing. As part of this partnership, he can offer ideas for events and racing. We expect race fans will be seeing a lot more entertainment in the near future.”

All events scheduled for Hawkeye Downs, starting with a gun show next weekend and an RV show in February, and including its next racing season, will go on as planned, through June 2021.

The entertainment venue will mark 100 years of racing in 2025.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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