SULLIVAN: The Paragon Revival

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Patrick Sullivan
Patrick Sullivan

Within a few weeks of my first year at Bloomington Speedway, I made the first of predictable rookie mistakes that belied I was not a native.

In doing an ad for an upcoming race at Paragon Speedway, I read the copy, repeated it, and provoked a chuckle from my co-announcer Carey Pittman. I announced the track name as Pair-a-gone. Pittman, quick to educate a newcomer, took to the public address and said, “That’s Pair-uh-gun, son!”

He was right, of course.

It’s not like I had never been to Paragon Speedway before. In fact, on a Month of May trip to Indianapolis, I ventured south to catch the All Star Circuit of Champions, and watched Joe Gaerte pull into victory lane. Even then the track was different, and shall we say rustic.

Here is my problem: I love rustic places. Just a few weeks ago I was walking with my wife towards the stadium of the Clinton (Iowa) Lumberkings to watch some Midwest League Baseball. Just looking around, I told her how much stadiums like this brought me back to a series of Duane Decker baseball books I had read as a kid.

For me, this stadium is what a minor league venue should look like.

I love the intimacy that comes with attending a game at a place like this, and I enjoy fields that have a little character. Paragon Speedway was that for me. With warped planks serving as seats, and resting on the side of a hill, it wasn’t hard for me to conjure up visions of days gone by. However, not everyone is a hopeless dreamer and a sucker for nostalgia.

If I take my wife anywhere, she has to have confidence in the restroom and the concession stand. She doesn’t want to spend hours on an uncomfortable seat. She is also far from alone.

Long before I had a chance to announce there, I loved old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis too. However, it didn’t take a mechanical or environmental engineering degree to understand the problems that beset the old facility.

Alas, when the aged plant was replaced by shiny and new, Victory Field attendance soared.

I get it; most people do not want to feel like a participant in a living history project when they spend their entertainment dollar. There is little question that Paragon Speedway faced some of the same issues.

Like many, I was convinced that Paragon was doomed. The reports that the land had been sold were rampant, and I knew that some negotiations for the sale of the track had broken down. Then came better news: Joe Spiker had acquired the venerable joint.

This could hardly have been a better outcome. As anyone can tell you, Spiker has resurrected Lincoln Park Speedway.

Every year now it seems like there is a slight improvement, and we also know that Joe is not afraid to race. At a time where many seem to be contracting their yearly schedules, with Joe it is always full steam ahead. In fact, because his transformation of Lincoln Park was so dramatic, some computer jockeys seemed impatient when Paragon Speedway did not appear to have experienced a complete makeover within weeks of the press release.

Rest assured, it is happening.

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