Columbus 151 Speedway (copy)

The home stretch of the Columbus 151 Speedway faces bleacher seating that steps up the grassy hillside, with the track’s grandstand at the top of the hill.

JOHN HART — State Journal archives

Madison Area Technical College’s plan to buy a Columbus racetrack and turn it into a training facility for emergency services students was delayed this summer when the speedway’s owners backed out of an agreement to sell it.

MATC officials had a deal in place to buy the 40-acre Columbus 151 Speedway for $583,000, and planned to complete the purchase in May.

Several racers and some of the owner’s family members have opposed the sale, however, and now the owner no longer wants to sell it, MATC Vice President for Administration Mark Thomas said.

That has led the technical college to file a lawsuit in Columbia County court seeking to force the sale.

Officials are next due in court for a hearing Nov. 18, though Thomas said he does not anticipate a decision in the case until near the end of this year.

If MATC prevails and buys the property, Thomas said the college would resurface what is now a banked oval racetrack, turning it into a flat course and adding a mock “cityscape” where future drivers of ambulances or firetrucks could practice navigating urban blocks and roundabouts. The college would also build a classroom facility at the site, Thomas said.

Students would likely start training at the facility in 2017, he said.

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Nico Savidge is the higher education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.