EBENSBURG - Organizers trying to bring weekend racing back to Ebensburg said fear and miscommunication likely, and irreversibly, ruined a deal with the Cambria County Fair board to jumpstart the former Ebensburg Speedway after a 15-year hiatus.
"They killed that. Absolutely. That's basically it," said Dan Savino, who had been working with local racers, borough government and fair officials for months to reopen the track to racing.
Savino and racer Ryan Claycomb, both of Altoona, first approached Borough Council in November to propose a return of "Sunday Thunder" racing, which was discontinued in 1997 after residents complained about the noise and dust cars created.
Sunday racing was ruled out in November and Friday night racing in December, but Savino said a proposed contract for racing from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays was all but finalized when one local business owner approached fair board solicitor Gary Jubas and convinced the board to kill the deal Jan. 10.
Jubas said he was presented with a list of many Facebook comments attacking residents who were against racing and attacking the borough itself.
"Those are things that offend the whole town," he said.
Savino and Claycomb both pointed to Rosemary Cramer of Fairview Bed and Breakfast located across from the fairgrounds, as the person who approached Jubas.
Cramer, who has become the unofficial spokeswoman for residents who were against racing, would not confirm that she contacted Jubas but said several racing supporters have been targeting her, and her business, since she told Borough Council in December that the noise and dirt created by racing at the track would ruin Fairview.
Several racing supporters have used Facebook to lower Fairview's ratings.
As of Friday, the three most recent Facebook reviews of the Fairview were one star, with commenters saying that they would not support Cramer's business because of her attitude toward Ebensburg Speedway.
"Since your establishment chose to act in bad faith against the opening of the speedway I will not ever stay at or suggest your business," read one review. "Your decision will cost you alot [sic] of potential customers."
Jubas said regardless of the Facebook comments, a contract was not finalized when fair board members backed out of negotiations earlier this month. The comments only added to already growing concerns with the group's proposal, he said.
"We're the landlords. We simply said 'No, we don't like where this is going,' and we rejected their application," Jubas said. "We didn't pull the plug solely because of this Facebook thing."
In the end, Jubas said, racing was an event few residents supported to begin with, and the board took a leap by agreeing to "entertain the proposal" from Claycomb and Savino before learning of fans' inappropriate behavior online.
"These guys don't stand a chance now of having racing in Ebensburg," he said.
Savino said he tried to work with Cramer and other residents to alleviate their concerns, but said the fair board members' minds were "clouded" from the beginning.
Claycomb said racers left "homeless" by the closure of Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, Indiana County, had been excited to race closer to home in Cambria County but will go elsewhere.
"We put six months of legwork in on this ... with the impression that the fair board really wanted us up there," he said. "We've gained a lot of really good positive momentum, and we're going to look at other local options."
Savino said he wanted to thank Borough Council members for the fair treatment racers received but warned that the annual Labor Day weekend county fair is unlikely to see racers return.
"Our fans will not return to the fairgrounds, never ... racing people are very loyal," he said.
Savino said within the next week to 10 days, he will be announcing another track that will host racers.
He would not disclose the name of the track or its location. But it isn't in Cambria County, he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.