KEKAHA — A $500,000 project to add electricity and infrastructure to the island’s drag racing strip is on the agenda for a May 23 Planning Commission meeting.
The public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in the Moikeha Building first-floor conference room of the Lihue Civic Center to consider a Special Management Area Use Permit for electrical and lighting improvements at Kauai Raceway Park in Mana.
The improvements are being proposed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The project would add lighting and a scoreboard at the drag strip. Both are currently operated using generators.
“The plan is to get the high school students to be able to come out, where it’s a safe environment and we can set up the track where it doesn’t take us a day to get everything ready,” said Tony Ricci, president of the Garden Island Racing Association. “Part of the stadium lighting is the safety issues. The lighting that we use is pretty dim compared to the lumens we’ll get with the stadium lightning.”
If approved, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative will create infrastructure and bring power from the highway to the track, which will bring power to a scoreboard and 19 lights along and around the track.
The plan is to set up infrastructure by 2018 and install the lights soon after.
“If it gets approved, they can start as soon as possible. Right now there’s enough budget to bring KIUC power and some infrastructure work for the lighting,” said Kyle Kaneshiro, principal at The Limtiacio Consulting Group, a civil engineering and environmental consultant.
For the back of the track, GIRA officials will continue to bring portable generators for additional lighting if need be.
”This overall impression of how much easier it’s going to be with the lights — it’s a great idea,” said County Councilmember Arthur Brun. “Instead of having to find lights, get them donated or rent lights, now they’ll get it installed.”
One concern raised with the lighting is the shearwater, Ricci said.
“GIRA has never raced during the fledgling season. We do not have night races in October, November, and we don’t race at all in December and January,” he said. “We never have for that reason and we never will. That is our schedule. We’re not going to change it. That was our agreement. We talked to DLNR.”
The design of the lights will direct lighting specifically to portions of the track, Ricci said.
“The lighting is going to help with the safety aspect,” Kaneshiro said. “Work is scheduled around the fledgling phase.”
Ricci hopes the added lighting will keep kids out of trouble.
“We can flip a switch and have kids come out on a Friday night or Saturday or sometime during the summer and get them off the street,” he said. “When we did that to see what the interest was a few years back, we had 32 kids show up from word of mouth. They were just so jazzed.”
Kaneshiro sees the track as a benefit for the community.
“GIRA is adamant to bringing racing off the street into a controlled environment,” he said.