KANSAS CITY, Kan. — About 1,500 fans were in the stands Friday night as Lakeside Speedway waved the green flag for the first time.
Lakeside has room for 5,000 fans, but with the guidelines calling for venues with capacity of 2,000 or more to remain closed, the track limited ticket sales.
Lakeside closed the ticket booth and only sold tickets online hoping to help with social distancing, but crowds still gathered around the gate hoping to be among the first inside this year.
“Everyone is excited. They are anxious to get in here, first race of the season,” Larry Waters said.
Many of the fans and drivers had already been to tracks in more rural areas of Missouri that opened earlier this month and were glad to now see it in in their backyard.
“It’s definitely a positive. It’s going to boost the economy. It’s going to help people. We need to get out. Everyone has been in homes so long, you get cabin fever.” Gerald Wahwahsuck said.
For Lakeside, it’s the second straight year with a delayed opening. Last year they only had six races because of flooding. This year they missed six because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pete Howey, Lakeside Speedway general manager, said racing without fans really wasn’t an option.
“The money coming in for the entries from the competitors goes right back into the purse, so for us to make any revenue keep the place open, we have to have the fans,” Howey said.
With tickets limited to 30% capacity, fans were encouraged to space out in the grandstands. Social distance markers were placed around the concession stands and restrooms.
“It’s pretty much on everyone’s basic judgment. We are all one family in the racing community. People say that and I understand that we are, but I’m like we have to maintain (social distancing),” Howey said.
One fan who said she made more than 3,000 masks for the community was in the vast majority not wearing them Friday night.
“I know it’s a risk. I know everyone’s taking a risk,” Vicki Davis said.
Despite so many races canceled the past year and fewer tickets available, Lakeside lowered ticket prices from $12 to $10 realizing many fans are still out of work.