Construction Of Grandstands At New London-Waterford Speedbowl Scheduled For Next Week

Crews work last month on site preparations for the construction of new grandstands at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (Photo: Courtesy New London-Waterford Speedbowl)

The shutdown of most businesses and banning of group gatherings due to the COVID-19 global pandemic has put the 2020 short track racing season on hold indefintely in Connecticut. 

But for one Connecticut track, the shutdown isn’t shutting down their long fight to reopen. 

After years of planning and numerous unexpected roadblocks, management at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl is ready to watch the rise of new grandstands at the track in the coming days. 

Speedbowl general manager Mike Serluca said he expects the Bleachers International to begin erecting the new grandstands by next week. 

Representatives of the company were on site at the track Tuesday taking inventory of materials for the grandstand building process. The grandstands were purchased from National Equipment & Facility Solutions of Mystic. The bulk of materials for the construction of the grandstands has been on the property since last year. 

“Just to see the grandstands go up is like, it’s a step in the right direction,” Serluca said. “It sends the message that we are committed to coming back strong and brand new. It’s just exciting for me. I’m happy. I’m beyond happy.” 

The Speedbowl did not run any events during the 2019 season. The last time the track was operational was late 2018. 

The new grandstand project has been long in the making at the Speedbowl. Going back at least a decade, town officials in Waterford have had issues with the safety of the grand wooden original structure that was built before the track’s opening in 1951. 

When Bruce Bemer took over ownership of the track following a foreclosure auction in late 2014 he put replacing the main grandstand near the top of his list of essential expected renovations.

In November 2017 then track general manager George Whitney announced that replacement of the grandstands would begin in early 2018. That projection never got off the ground and Whitney resigned as general manager late in the 2018 racing season. Serluca replaced Whitney as general manager in September 2018. 

In early 2019 the main grandstand was demolished, but plans for construction of new grandstands were slowed by legal issues faced by Bemer and logistical and planning issues on the track property, including the repair of major drainage issues. 

One year ago this week Bemer was found guilty on four counts of patronizing a trafficked person and one count of being an accessory to human trafficking. He was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison, but remains free on bail pending an appeal of the convictions. 

“I had expected some delays on the project, like I said last year, I fully expected that we’d be racing last year,” Serluca said. “If it wasn’t for the major drainage issues we had I think we would have actually been doing some racing last year.”

The old main grandstand at the track ran the length of the frontstretch. The new grandstands will be in two separate sections of about 159 feet long running the length of the frontstretch. Each of the two new sections will have a capacity of about 1,760, including handicap accessible areas. 

Serluca said renovation plans call for a scoring tower to be constructed in between the two new grandstands.

Serluca said the contract for construction of the grandstand structures calls for project completion within 30 days of the start of materials inspection on site, which began Tuesday. 

The Speedbowl has not announced any schedule for the 2020 season but numerous local touring divisions have announced tentative events at the track for the 2020 season. 

It’s unclear at this point when state short tracks will be allowed to reopen pending state restrictions on gatherings because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

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  1. Fast Eddie says

    A rare positive bit of racing related info amidst the gloom and uncertainty of today’s reality. Hopefully at some point Connecticut will once again have three great racing venues!

  2. Mark A Stanton says

    I get it now Shawn, dirt sells…’re not now or ever been an actual supporter of auto racing……If all the tracks closed, I think you’d move to bowling, or hockey, without missing a beat…..It’s a job to you, not a passion.

  3. As a fan of Stafford I’m not afraid to admit the Speedbowl track length and configuration is the best in Ct for spectator viewing. You can see everything and surface allows for great competition. This is great news. If they can get a new owner at some point in the not to distant future with management that is forward looking and not stuck deep in the last century the track in my view has the brightest future of any track in Ct.

  4. Glad to see this facility rising up from the ashes. I didn’t think it would happen, but I’m thrilled to see the shoreline oval reopen soon. Congrats to the track General Manager and all who had and have a hand in its reconstruction. Saturday nights were always a prime racing night in New England. Good Luck.

  5. We don’t always agree but I have to say. Great write up 👍. Finally some positive during a crappie situation.

  6. Mark A. Stanton, what’s your problem?

    Somebody pee in your cornflakes again?

  7. At least two, I don’t think Thompson even cares about racers anymore.. just their club racing on the road course

  8. getserious says

    I just hope, for the sake of Waterford fans, that the company that builds those grandstands is not the same bunch that built the re-done ones at Monadnock! Those are the most poorly deigned, completely messed-up bunch of crap I have EVER attempted to view a race from, at any track. It’s so very simple to see what the problem is that you just know that no-one put any thought or design into them; the first row is too close and too high from the track, and so, with a new, low and inadequate pitch to the grandstands, no-one but those in the front row and those that can stand in the very back row, can see the front straight. It is unfathomable to me that no-one engineered these even close to properly. I’m glad to see Waterford is continuing to look to re-open and I wish them well.

  9. Great news for all ct racing family. the wooden stands were the best – kept the wind away and not cold seats like aluminum.

  10. Mark, this is literally his job.

    Of course he would move on to something else if racing ended. I would too. Journalist and media people do it all the time.

  11. sour grapes big heads block my view says

    get serious ..sounds like traditional older style bleachers.. agree hopefully properly pitched and designed for racing like Stafford…hopefully a platform walkway at the front like I have seen at several high school football venues in the state . cant wait to have opening day at the bowl

  12. Fast Eddie says

    Get serious, the new stands at Monadnock wouldn’t be so bad if the bottom row was 3-4 feet off the ground like the original ones. The viewing would be much better. I still think they should have repaired the existing stands; a decent amount of room and much more comfortable than aluminum benches. I had a couple of great spots to use my cameras that now are pretty useless with all the front straight fencing in the way due to the lower overall height and being too close to the fence. They actually end up losing seating area due to people trying to keep an empty row in front of them so they have some leg room.

  13. Fast Eddie says

    Mark Stanton, I highly doubt a career journalist with a major city newspaper would set up and work hard to maintain a racing website if he didn’t like racing. There’s plenty of sites you can go to besides here, and I don’t think Shawn will miss you at all!

  14. Some great positive news on the local racing scene. Can’t wait to see the final product.

    From their web site, check it out along with some interesting bleacher photos; NEFS (National Equipment & Facility Solutions) serves a prestigious list of clients throughout the northeastern United States by providing expert services in planning, estimating, value engineering, and assisting with timely procurement and installations.

    NEFS also represents quality architectural products for schools, athletic complexes and recreation facilities. State-of-the-art products from highly respected companies include Jaypro Sports Equipment, Sheridan Seating, Promats Athletics, Bleachers International Grandstands, and Nevco Scoreboards.

  15. Mark Stanton, I’ve yet to see you post something positive. I agree with Fast Eddie whereas I don’t think Shawn would work so hard if he didn’t have a passion for racing. I’m glad he let your post through, so we could all see what a real idiot you are. If you don’t like the stories here, don’t log on, nobody will miss you

  16. great news. I would argue the bowl has the best racing in ct. This is a good sign that racing will eventually come back to the bowl. Thanks for something positive and something to look forward to.

  17. the stands at monadnock are the uncomfortablist ive ever sit in
    have too go to the top rows or u are all scrunched trying to sit in them.
    Good point get serious

  18. The Monadnock stands were second hand from somewhere else. I can’t remember where though.

    3520 seats at Waterford isn’t very many seats now that I think about it.

  19. getserious says

    JD, There are portions of last year’s new stands at Monadnock that are from NHMS. The seat numbers are still on some of them! And I recognize those aluminum backs. The real problem is that the trusses and framework that they built to mount the seats to are done wrong. BTW, they used to have some of the old seats and backs from Riverside. Actually, that section might still be there. But they replaced the wooden seating.

  20. Seriously? 😳

    Complaining about if the stands at the bowl will be comfortable or not?

  21. Naw, nobody peed in my Cornflakes….it’s just been an ongoing theme that whenever we write about the Bowl, we have tag the same crap onto the story about the owners legal troubles. Everybody in the Town of Waterford, every New England race fan and all the way to Daytona Beach Florida are well aware of it. I just believe it’s one sided, you never hear how Eames almost killed the Bowl and left it in shambles, he also had “Legal troubles” also but it’s never printed here, why is that? I had a conversation with the writer that when Hernandez was being indited he was all over the FRONT page, but not the sports pages, those people wanted to distance themselves from the sport, instead here we keep connecting the issue. If Shawn was a competitor and not writer, He’d be banned under Nascar rule 12-1. P.S. Like to talk the talk? Sign your name to it.

  22. Stafford 8,000, Seekonk 10,000, Thompson 13,000. I would guess with the fourth and first turn stands which are still there it is more like 3,700 give or take for Waterford.

  23. Mark,

    The owner of the track has had some very well publicized legal troubles. That’s not my fault, and as long as he owns the track those issues will be connected to the track. Ignoring them or acting like they never happened doesn’t make them go away.

    I get that you want to separate “the track” emotionally from “the owner”, as if the track is some living, breathing being independent of the man who owns it. That’s not reality, that’s just what you want because in your mind it will make the bad man and all his baggage seem like they’re not really a part of what you love.

    Please don’t come here and try to lecture me on what journalism is or how it works. No offense, but you don’t have a clue. You’ve made it clear you think good journalism is about sugarcoating stories, hiding facts and making everything sound wonderful. It is certainly not that. If that’s what you want, you can start your own fan website with no journalistic standards.

    I get it Mark, you don’t like me and don’t like that I’m not a pom-pom waving cheerleader for the sport you love. I also get that you hate me personally. You’ve made that very clear by your many posts about me on Facebook. You made that very clear when you cheered for the person on Facebook who said I was a “dirty awful cancer to local racing”. I get it Mark. If you hate what I do, you hate how I do what I do and you hate me so much personally, why do you read everything I write?

  24. Is Thompson really around 13,000? It has to be less since they took down the turn 1 pit grandstands,no? Seekonk has a lot of standing room. They could fit 20,OOO if need be.

  25. Putting all of Bemers legal problems aside, it’s good to see work being done. The Covid pandemic may even give them time to finish all the renovations before racing even starts. Who knows, maybe Bemer is getting the grounds up to par so he can sell it, which would be best for everyone, giving New England racers another track to run for national points, provided the new owner got a NASCAR sanction.

  26. If you do a search on any topic related to area racing the most authoritative and up-to-date information will probably be in a RaceDayCT link. This article checks all the boxes for the topic it addresses. A snap shot in time that gives a very brief historical perspective that is critical for context. It’s not appropriate for a person with a grudge picking out offensive content. No article can pass that test. It is appropriate for anyone that may want a solid update regarding the stands as of April, 8, 2020.
    The article had one paragraph about the owner, it was perfectly placed and entirely appropriate. An inappropriate article would have had a lengthy explanation of where Bemers case is now and speculation on how it will affect the future of the track. I might go into the fact that the civil suits were settled last January and that while there may be more, Bemer may have more control over his finances and thus the Bowl project is moving forward. It could have gone into the appeal time line and how long Bemer will be able to side step punishment before the appeal process runs out. It could have speculated on the fact that while the renovation is great it still doesn’t solve the larger problem of who owns the track and how it still will have a negative impact on competitor and fan interest. All that would be inappropriate and it wasn’t included.
    At this point in time we have bigger fish to fry so concrete pads and gleaming new stands is good news that trumps any focus on the dark cloud still over the track. The article mentioned none of that, was professional and objective as far as I can see. Mentioning Eames and conduct detrimental to the sport is not even executing a good grudge skillfully.

  27. Mark A. Stanton, you forgot to bring up Hillary, Benghazi, and the pizza parlor child sex slave operation.

    Fair and balanced.

  28. I just wish Mr. Bemer would sell the track and let it thrive. I can’t support it while he still owns it.

    I love racing, I love local tracks, but… I can’t support something that from which he might continue to profit. There are some lines that when crossed are bigger than mosport.

  29. On a positive note it may be easier for Bremer to sell and go away with the new grandstands. Serluca hopefully gets the GM position he’s done a hell of a job considering the situation.

  30. Open Wheel Fan says

    The track will never get NASCAR sanction if the ownership does not change hands. Therefore there wont be any modified tour events. Still have to see it to believe it that Waterford reopens in 2020 or next year with the coronavirus epidemic. Waterford puts on terrific racing events and it would be great to see racing again at the bowl but still have to see it to believe it after hearing all last year racing was going to return. Thompson is going to be delayed again it was announced a few days ago.

  31. “If it wasn’t for the major drainage issues we had I think we would have actually been doing some racing last year.”
    That implies to me they were addressed so with the erection of the stands the track is immeasurably better and viable as a money making proposition going in as opposed to a fixer upper. Making it all the more marketable. The town and zone it resides are now all on board that it’s a race track going forward. Fingers crossed it’s the goal of the current management. The singular dedication to selling the property.
    The status quo on ownership and management for that matter is a non starter for the track to have a real future.

  32. Has this week’s weather slowed down the grandstand project at the Bowl?

  33. Rafter Fan,
    I’ve heard things have been moving along.

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