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Hedge fund provides $30 million for raceway; official says economic conditions turned off traditional banks

Staff report
SPENCER ó High Rock Raceway has secured a $30 million construction loan commitment from Vanderbilt Commercial Lending, Inc., headquartered in Sacramento, Calif.
The $30 million will be used to build the 2.15-mile road course and 120 race townhomes that comprise Phase I of raceway project along the Yadkin River on the site of the site of the former N.C. Finishing Co. which later became Color-Tex.
Rich Combs, chief operating officer of High Rock Raceway, said the money is coming from a hedge fund. “Banks wouldn’t finance it in today’s market,” said Combs, a former banker.
“We’re ecstatic, we’ve been working on it for some time,” Combs said. “We anticipate that quite soon we will be in full construction mode. … We expect to close as soon as we possibly can.”
Combs also announced that Spinnaker Contractors of Mount Ulla has been hired as the general contractor for the track.
“We were looking for one company to be the general contractor,” Combs said. “We have so much grading to do. Spinnaker has an unlimited license, … does work for the N.C. Department of Transportation, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. He’s got all the right stuff for us.”
Combs said hiring Spinnaker fits within their commitment to keep the work in the county. “All the money will be spent in the county,” Combs said.
Clearing, grubbing and environmental work is continuing on site. Combs said they will move forward on the erosion control plan and submit it to the county.
Current plans call for grading to start in the fall, with completion of the track and townhomes by this time next year.
Dan Brennan, chief executive officer of Reserve Capital LLC of Chicago, represented High Rock in the negotiation of the loan commitment with Vanderbilt. The construction loan funds will be provided through Vanderbilt with commercial mortgage-backed securities.
A portion of the loan will be be used to to pay more than $100,000 in back wages to former Color-Tex employees, honoring a commitment of Dave Risdon, a former partner in Color-Tex and now chief executive officer of High Rock Raceway.
Risdon acquired the property in 2003 during Color-Tex bankruptcy proceedings.
In addition to moving forward with the financing and construction plans, High Rock officials are working with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and divisions of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to deal with wetlands and sludge issues.
The Corps of Engineers approved the wetland tributary restoration project on Friday. Once final approval comes from the state, landscaping will follow later in the fall.
Raceway officials plan to work with Catawba College’s Center for the Environment on the final step in the process.
“We’re glad our efforts are improving the environment in the area,” said Combs. “The community will see tremendous growth with the project in the coming months, and we are looking forward to construction beginning on the townhomes in the near future.”
Once complete, High Rock Raceway will be the only “green” track in the nation. Its design includes consumption-reducing materials and renewable energies and will feature alternative fuels. Officials plan to open the track for free to companies and researchers working to develop alternative fuels and vehicles.

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