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Radack’s Hill gets set to debut

Anybody feel like doing a little soapbox derby racing? If so, County Commissioner Steve Radack has got what you need.

Radack’s crew is putting the finishing touches on a $2.3 million soapbox derby park. The first races are scheduled for next month. The competition will be an early test of how well the hill generates the 30 to 35 mph speeds of the sport.

It also will be the first test of whether the track has a chance to become a national racing hub or a multimillion dollar curiosity lampooned as Radack’s Folly — or maybe both.

“When people find out this is here — you wait!” the commissioner said. He’ll have 240 parking spaces waiting for them, and he insists they will be filled on days when families come from all over the nation to compete on the 985-foot-long track.

See here and here for previous bloggage. I’ll say this much for Radack – he’s got vision. I don’t share his optimism about this project’s prospects, but you can’t accuse him of lacking creativity.

So what is the likelihood that this thing will amount to more than a hill of beans?

The current Houston soapbox racing schedule draws only about 60 contestants three times a year. That, in part, is because there is no track, said Rick Higginbotham, president of the Greater Houston Soapbox Derby organization. Race organizers have to get city permission to close a street and set up a ramp from a railroad overpass at Westpark and Wesleyan, near West University Place.

In fact, there is no track in Texas or neighboring states, Higginbotham said. Enthusiasts from other parts of the state already have contacted him about a state meet at Hockley.

The location could even make Hockley the host of a winter national meet, Higginbotham said, a three-day affair that could attract hundreds of racers and relatives.

“You never know what grows out of this,” he said.

Leaders of two national derby associations say they have heard about the Hockley park but have no plans to explore holding competitions there. Jim Huntsman, president of All-American Soap Box Derby, said the sport would have to at least double in popularity to support regular regional competitions.

Like I say, I’m not as optimistic about this as Radack is, but who knows? I suppose it would help if there were some sort of objective evidence that this will be something other than a novelty, but if there is it doesn’t make it into the story. Now, I’m not claiming this thing needs to bring in visitors from out of state to be a success. If it turns out to be popular with the residents of the area, that’s really all that’s needed for a county-built park. But given that it’s Radack himself who’s pushing the idea that the park will bring in business and tourism, and that the local chamber of commerce seems to agree, then I don’t think it’s outrageous to judge it by that standard. Let’s mark our calendars for five years from now and see what it looks like then.

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  1. Bob Derr says:

    I am shell shocked at Commissioner Steve Radack’s $2.3 million soapbox derby park way over in timbucktoo. What in the ever lovin’ world was he thinking? I find it so very hard to believe he would spend hard earned tax payer $$$ on something this frivolous. Let me guess… his kids are into racing soapbox derby cars?! He needs to go!

  2. […] Watchdog has an interesting story on Radack’s Hill, also known as the Hockley Soap Box Derby track. I note that Commissioner Radack is still hard at […]