First, we believe it may have been a mistake for the BDA not to meet with the city regarding the decision to extend funds to bring the Texas Mile back to Beeville.
City Manager Deborah Ballí said she had requested a joint meeting with the BDA board for the Thursday night session but the BDA had declined the invitation.
Many citizens cannot understand why the insurance cost is so high. The BDA board is requiring the Texas Mile to pay for a $50 million insurance policy for their twice-a-year event at Chase Field. Most such events require a $5 million policy, the organizers say.
As one person commented online, “It is a small event, not a Nascar race. Chase Field is completely deserted unless the Texas Mile comes in March and October. I could understand if Sikorsky was still up and running, but it’s not anymore.
“I would be a disappointed citizen if the Texas Mile had to stop coming. This is a great opportunity for profit to come through Beeville as well as tourists, and a great opportunity for the Automotive Department at Coastal Bend College, because we as students have a chance to inspect these cars from all over the country...”
We also realize the BDA and Joe Montez, its executive director, are in a predicament. Yes, Sikorsky and its helicopter-repair jobs have vacated the premises. But the BDA still has tenants and assets, including high-priced aircraft stored in hangars at the former naval base.
As one official pointed out, “Just look at what happened at the Rialto,” where an automobile accidentally crashed through the exterior wall, causing extensive damage to the renovated historic downtown theater recently.
There have been accidents (even one resulting in a fatality) at the Texas Mile, and the BDA certainly could not afford to be exposed to the liability resulting from such an occurrence at Chase Field.
Some question whether the city made a smart decision to award J&S Matus Motorsports $80,000 of its hotel and motel occupancy tax funds to pay for the Texas Mile’s insurance, since it is a for-profit entity.
Yet, after hearing organizer Shannon Matus’ report concerning the semi-annual land speed event, the council believes the city benefits from hosting it. Matus said that the Texas Mile brought 6,395 participants, crew and spectators to Beeville last year and they spent more than $700,000 in raw dollars during 2012.
It’s a unique event, “puts heads in beds” (at the many motels) and has a devoted following among auto racers and enthusiasts, as well as some business owners. At least 30 Texas Mile supporters attended last Thursday’s meeting.
So, we can understand why the council voted 4-1 to provide the HOT funds.
Perhaps the BDA will deliver a suitable replacement for Sikorsky and, after attaining “public use” airport status with instrument flight rules rating, fill up all the vacant hangars and aviation-related facilities at Chase Field in the near future.
In that case, maybe the Texas Mile would have to move to a more remote location. If Bee County really wants to retain this attraction long term, some landowner could step up and offer to construct the long runway and facilities needed to host the Mile.
That would be a win-win scenario. In the meantime, these entities must learn to coexist peacefully.
– Chip Latcham