Some members of the Prince George's County Council say they are prepared to torpedo a bill introduced last week that could bring motorcycle racing to Rosecroft Raceway and Bowie Race Course.
If approved, the measure, introduced by council Chairman Floyd E. Wilson at the request of lawyers for Rosecroft Raceway, would change county zoning regulations to allow the two-wheeled racing event to be held three days a year. The bill's introduction was greeted with scorn at last week's council session.
"This conjures up all the worst kinds of things," said council member William Ammonett. "I know there is some place in the world where motorcyclists are racing, but never in Prince George's County."
"It's a dead bill," member Frank Casula said. "We're going to put a casket outside and put the bill in it."
Wilson said he agreed to introduce the bill only as a courtesy to the Rosecroft attorneys because the Sept. 25 council session was the deadline for bringing new legislation before the council.
Ellis Koch, the attorney representing Rosecroft, defended the legislation, which he said is meant to allow Prince George's County to be added to the list of sites on a national professional motorcycle racing tour.
"These are championship events that are run periodically throughout the country," Koch said. "It's not your typical motorcycle rally."
The three-day competition, he said, is "the creme de la creme" of motorcycle events.
Rosecroft president William Miller said he was approached by the tour's sponsors at an industry meeting in February about the possibility of making Rosecroft a stop on the circuit.
"We're always interested in using the field for things other than horse racing," said Miller, who added that the track has been used for fairs, flea markets and even a dinner theater in the past.
"We're not looking to put motorcycle racing in there every night," he said. "We're not going to put anything on that's not a quality event."
Bowie Race Course General Manager Alvin A. Karwacki said that such a zoning change probably would not affect his course because its racing surface is not suitable for motor vehicles.
Also, Bowie is scheduled to be closed down after the winter season, he said.
Dale Owens, the marketing director for the Louisville (Ky.) Downs Racing Track, promotes the Camel Pro Series motorcycle racing tour, which includes 33 dates around the country this year.
The tour, sponsored by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., showcases "the very top professional cyclists," Owens said, and prize money offered at Rosecroft during its first season there would run between $30,000 and $35,000.
This year, stops included Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
Noise levels, Owens said, are governed by rules set down by the American Motorcyclists Association, and he added that the races do not create the problems that County Council members are anticipating. "It's not the greasy-haired bum who comes in and races these things," Owens said. "At $15 to $20 a ticket, it's a professional sporting event."
Miller and Owens said that sponsoring such an event could mean increased revenues for the county and its businesses.
"It will also bring people who are paying $20 a ticket who sleep in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy gasoline and buy clothes," he said.
Miller said that county approval for a zoning change is only the first step in the process that would bring the professional motorcycling tour to Rosecroft. A special license for that event would have to be granted by the county, he said.
But Ammonett said he still does not think motorcycle racing is a good idea for Prince George's.
"I understand they're trying to make a buck, and that's what they should be trying to do," he said. "I would only support it if the people came out and say they support it."
"You're just opening up a thing where you're reducing the quality of life for people in Prince George's County," Casula added. "That's the last thing we need.