Luann Baker grew up in west Texas, a country girl who, like her neighbors, had a lot of free time on her hands. So they often slid into cars and raced.
Decades later, Baker is now living in Sloan, a tiny pocket a few miles south of the M Resort with double-wides, quarry workers and little else. But by next year, if all goes as planned, she’ll be near some high-speed driving again.
Speed Vegas plans to open a 1.5-mile racetrack at Sloan Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, just off Interstate 15, next spring. Visitors would be able to grab the wheel — or strap in to the passenger seat — of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ford Shelby GT 500, Corvette Stingray and other vehicles for an “extreme, rollar-coaster driving experience,” CEO Aaron Fessler said.
Options include paying $196 to drive four “adrenaline-inducing” laps in an American muscle car, or $445 to drive five “thunderous” laps in a “supercar” for an “exotic elite” experience, marketing materials say.
Fessler, joined by fellow project executives and others, held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the planned racetrack Monday morning. Las Vegas is “a city of pleasure,” Fessler said at the event, and the track would lure “thrill seekers” of all ages and skill levels.
The racecourse would be the latest nongambling attraction in America’s casino capital, where visitors increasingly are avoiding card tables and slot machines to shop, dine, party in nightclubs or go to shows. And it would intercept tourists streaming in from Las Vegas’ biggest feeder market: Southern California.
Last year, 71 percent of visitors to Las Vegas gambled while here, down from 80 percent in 2010. Some 27 percent of visitors last year came from Southern California, and 94 percent of them drive in, according to GLS Research, in reports for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Tourists here are “looking for extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Fessler said. And his group may not stop with the racecourse; Fessler said he’s considering, among other things, stunt and off-road tracks.
“We’ve got enough real estate to make that a reality,” he said.
Fessler, through his World Class Driving business, has offered road and track driving excursions in 45 cities. Speed Vegas, however, is his first permanent facility, he said.
It’s expected to cost $30 million to develop. That includes the site’s purchase price, project partner Scott Gragson said.
The project site is currently about 90 acres, but investors are looking to acquire land to bring the total to 100 acres, he said.
Gragson is a real estate broker with Colliers International and an investor who, with partners, bought the site in 2013 for $11.75 million from casino giant MGM Resorts International. The landowners are renting the site out for the racetrack.
Speed Vegas wouldn’t be the only place in town where drivers can unleash their inner speed demon. Other options include Exotics Racing, Dream Racing and the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Baker, the Texas native, has lived in Sloan for about 10 years, in the Roark Estates community of about two dozen double-wides west of I-15. She said residents haven’t talked much about the project, but there doesn’t seem to be any objection to it.
She’s hopeful it will attract investors to build services nearby, including retail. She said the nearest grocery stores “of any caliber” are on Maryland Parkway at Silverado Ranch Boulevard, roughly eight miles away.
About 75 percent of the residents at Roark Estates are retirees, she said, and people moved there for the solitude. Having other developments would be nice, she said, as long as they’re not too close.
“We all came down here for a reason,” she said.