Ontario’s sprint boat track opens for competitive fun Saturday

The 2,000-foot sprint boat racing track next to the Ontario Municipal Airport was empty last week but there will be plenty of competitive action at the facility this weekend. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

ONTARIO – Ron Dillon is used to making things happen.

The former Caldwell, Idaho resident and long-term promoter is also familiar with success.

Take the Big Nasty Hill Climb. Dillon spearheaded the Payette County motorcycle happening which began as a modest event. Eight years after the first motorcycle attempted to climb up a steep, high desert hill north of New Plymouth, the event attracted more than 13,000 people.

Now Dillon is poised to unwrap what he hopes will be another must-see crowd experience when he opens his sprint boat racing track at the old Ontario Golf Course Friday, June 10, and Saturday, June 11.

Friday, sprint boat racers will test their vessels while competition begins Saturday, said Dillon. Children under 5 enter free while youth 6 to 12 are $5 on Friday and Saturday. For adults it costs $10 on Friday and $30 on Saturday.

“It is a pretty marvelous thing we’ve done,” said Dillon.

Dillon said he is optimistic the new sprint boat racing track will “do well.”

“I am all in on this thing. It will be great for Ontario. It will bring people in left and right. They’ll get motel rooms, buy gas and it will certainly be another revenue stream for the city,” said Dillon.

Under Dillon’s tutelage, his crews transformed the old golf course property into a 2,000-foot circular track complete with channels where high-speed sprint boats will compete for cash under the auspices of the United States Sprint Boat Association.

In sprint boat racing, jetboats with a crew of two race through a series of twisting channels of 30 inches of water with the fastest course time winning.

Dillon said the sprint boats can accelerate from zero to 100 mph in under three seconds.

“They will pull up to seven Gs on a turn which is comparable to an F-16 fighter jet. It is some pretty intense, pretty wild stuff,” said Dillon.

The track, he said, holds about a million gallons of water.

“There is so much safety built into it. There is a cable that surrounds the track so that nothing can get out of the track,” said Dillon.

Dillon said the idea of the sprint boat track evolved from an otherwise unremarkable conversation he engaged in with former Ontario Airport Manager Erik Hartley more than a year ago.

“He is a motorcycle nut and he said you should build a motorcycle track there (at the golf course),” said Dillon.

Dillon liked the idea but he said he wasn’t convinced it would draw big crowds.

“But I knew about this sprint boat thing,” said Dillon.

For years a sprint boat racing track existed near Marsing but it closed in the early 2000s. Last summer Dillon decided to see if he could get a sprint boat track in Ontario off the ground.

“I started working with the city manager, Adam Brown, and he was instrumental in getting me pushed in the right direction,” said Dillon.

Dillon wasn’t in the market to buy a large chunk of land and the city wasn’t interested in selling the golf course property. The city, though, and Dillon finally worked out a lease early this year.

“I signed a five-year contract with the city,” said Dillon.

Dillon said the golf course property needed some tender care.

“The golf course was a hot, sweaty mess. Wells didn’t work, pumps that didn’t work,” said Dillon.

As Dillon proceeded with the construction of the track fate intervened as global supply shortages and inflation hit the project.

 “I am paying enormous costs for everyday items like pipes and cement that used to be somewhat affordable,” said Dillon.

Dillon pointed to the ramp used to unload the jet boats. The concrete for the slab cost $14,000 with cement prices 10 times what they were when the project was planned.

“It’s cost 30 percent more to build then we forecast and that’s because of inflation,” said Dillon.

Dillon said he received some sponsorship help from local merchants – such as Hotbox Farms and the Ontario Visitors and Convention Bureau – but the lion’s share of the cash for the venture is his.

“We’ve spent every dime plowing it right back into the track. But we believe we will have the safest and fastest sprint boat track in the world,” said Dillon.

John Breidenbach, president of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce, said the sprint boat race track will pay economic dividends to the community.

“Those types of events will bring people in from all over. I am very excited to back it and support it,” said Breidenbach.

Dillon said his lease also includes room to create other events at the golf course.

“I am interested in doing what will fit within the parameters and limitations of hours of operation and noise,” said Dillon.

One idea, he said, centers on a dry pond at the site.

“We’ve got valves and pipes that can divert water into that pond and that would allow us to put on some mud bog events which we are interested in doing in the future,” said Dillon.

The motorcycle track idea isn’t dead either, said Dillon.

“We will take another look at that once the sprint boat track is up and running,” said Dillon.

Dillon said the boat races will be popular.

“We believe we will consistently get two to four thousand spectators at these things. It is the only facility within 300 miles and there are a lot of motorheads in this valley,” said Dillon.

To find out more, go online to www.ontariospeedway.com.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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