GALOT Motorsports Park, the 125-acre complex of motorsports amenities that welcomes thousands of visitors to Johnston County each year, has been awarded a $583,586 grant derived from federal COVID-19 recovery funds. Johnston County’s Board of Commissioners voted earlier this month to receive the funds from the North Carolina Department of Commerce on behalf of the Park, which is located off NC 242 near Benson.
“As one of Johnston County’s busiest visitor attractions, GALOT Motorsports Park drives opportunities for our tourism economy and serves as a promotional asset for our County as a business destination,” said Johnston County Commission Chairman R.S. “Butch” Lawter, Jr. “We commend the Wells Family for the vision and hard work that they’ve put into creating a leading national motorsports facility and wish them continued success during their next phase of growth.”
The park currently hosts 25-35 events per year, bringing sales to local hotels, retailers and restaurants. With seating for 9,000 spectators, the family-friendly facility has become a highly respected venue for racing teams, competitive events and fans. The grant will help fund the park’s next phase of development, which includes a new outdoor concert venue and additional restroom facilities. GALOT’s plans for this expansion were delayed due to COVID-19, which shut down spectator sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings for more than a year.
“Clean restroom and shower facilities are critical to the success of any outdoor entertainment space,” said Earl Wells, owner of GALOT Motorsports Park. “We are thrilled to receive such a substantial grant award. These funds will enhance the customer experience, expand our event offerings via the new stage, and bring greater economic development return to the area.”
Earl and Peggy Wells bought the former Dunn-Benson Drag Strip in 2013 and launched an ambitious series of improvements to the track and surrounding amenities. The site re-opened in 2016 as GALOT Motorsports Park. The drag racing surface features 660 feet of the flattest and fastest concrete in the country, making the park a popular draw among racing teams. Modern lighting systems, an indoor concession area, two tower suites and a media center also help make the park one of the nation’s most popular motorsports destinations. Many of its events are televised or live-streamed, creating more exposure for Johnston County.
“Whenever GALOT holds events in Benson, the local tourism economy greatly benefits from visitors traveling from around the country needing accommodations, dining out, discovering our local attractions and shopping,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, president and CEO of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. “With these additions and improvements at the venue, we are truly excited for the Wells family and we look forward to welcoming even more visitors to the area.”
GALOT Motorsports Park has also hosted economic development gatherings. In May 2016, Johnston County leaders brought 250 VIPs from industry and business to the facility as part of its “Racing for Recruitment” event. “GALOT directly drives real dollars to JoCo’s economy throughout the year, but it is also a business development asset for us that most competing communities do not have,” said Chris Johnson, director of the Johnston County Office of Economic Development. “It is a showcase for our economic diversification, our spirit of innovation, our hospitable atmosphere and a quality-of-life that offers something for everyone.”
Johnston County is among 15 North Carolina local governments to receive grants under the state’s Motorsports Relief Fund, a $45.8 million program administered by the N.C. Department of Commerce for supporting the recovery of communities whose local economies were adversely impacted when COVID-19 idled motorsports venues and devastated event revenues. The money was allocated to the state pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package passed by the U.S. Congress in March 2021.
“Motorsports are part of the fabric of North Carolina, bringing jobs, tourism dollars and employment to millions,” Governor Roy Cooper said in May of this year upon announcing the grantees. “These relief funds will help this industry coming out of the pandemic not only get back in the race full speed, but spark renewal of rural and urban speedways and stadiums all across our state.”
The Johnston County Economic Development Office (JCEDO) facilitates value-added interaction between government, education, and the private sector in encouraging and promoting job creation and economic investment in Johnston County. A unit of county government, JCEDO collaborates with local, regional, and statewide partners and allies in providing confidential location assistance to businesses and technical support to the county’s 11 municipalities. Its menu of services includes customized digital mapping, labor and wage analysis, site readiness assistance and incentive packaging. For additional information, visit www.GrowWithJoCo.com.