South Okanagan Motorsports Corporation (SOMC) has the green light to begin constructing Area 27.
Work on the country club for sports car enthusiasts is hoped to begin this spring, said Bill Drossos, president and one of the founders of SOMC.
After two years of planning, Drossos and his group of Trevor Seibert, Jacques Villeneuve and David King got the thumbs up from the Osoyoos Indian Band, which passed a motion Jan. 9 to make the site designated for motor sports for 110 years.
“The band has agreed this is a project they want,” said Drossos, adding that the next step is getting various agreements and papers, including environmental papers, completed. Construction is expected to take seven months.
The other good news for SOMC is it is nearing the 150 members, which they wanted for the club when construction starts.
“If you own a sports car, you can’t enjoy it on the public roads or you can’t experience what the car is capable of,” said Drossos, who added it’s like taking a new driver down to the mini golf. “You’re not going to be able to use it properly, and if you did, it’s highly frowned upon.”
Along with Area 27 being a country club for sports car owners, it will also function as a corporate entertainment facility. Drosses said they have gained interest from the auto manufacturers and dealers for events such as car unveilings, customer appreciation day and corporate team building. It will also be a community events centre to host various shows.
“For the South Okanagan, it’s of huge significance in terms of potential revenue and tourism,” said Drossos, who partnered with Jacques Villeneuve, who designed the Area 27 track. “It’s a unique draw. Not competing with anything else. This will be the only thing of its kind in western Canada.”
With the project getting support from the OIB, Drossos now has three proposed hotel developers in contact with him, two from Oliver and one in Penticton.
Area 27, named after the number that Villeneuve and his father Gilles raced with, will have a private three-mile road with 16 corners. Safety will be important so drivers will get proper instruction.
“They all have to take a course before they are allowed on the track,” said Drossos. “We will have our driving academy there. We have some of the best driver coaches in North America.”
Heading up the school will be Richard Spenard, who coached Patrick Carpentier, Greg Moore and Villeneuve. Drossos added that on occasion, Carpentier will also instruct.
“The people are going to have an opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” he said.
Drossos is excited.
“It’s not every day you hear of a road circuit being approved in Canada,” he said.
During a press conference held in September of 2013, Drossos said the idea for a racetrack facility in the Okanagan, modelled on the resort golf club concept, came to him while spending time at the Shannonville Motorsport Park in Ontario.
In 2012, Drossos was driving back from Mt. Baldy and looked across the valley at the bench on OIB land and thought it would be perfect for a race track.
“I’ve never seen a better location anywhere,” he said.
When it comes to the geography of the membership, Drossos said 30 per cent from Osoyoos to Salmon Arm. Upwards of 45 per cent are from the Lower Mainland with others scattered from all over, including California and the Caman Islands. For more information on Area 27, www.area27.ca.