This aerial view of the World Championship Derby Complex shows  just the portion of the 30-acre parcel on Eagle River’s north side. The indoor seating around the banked oval track was developed by the Decker family over the past 30 years and the new owners hope to get more use out of the facility, including the large expo hall west of the track. —Photo By Jim Kauzlaric
This aerial view of the World Championship Derby Complex shows just the portion of the 30-acre parcel on Eagle River’s north side. The indoor seating around the banked oval track was developed by the Decker family over the past 30 years and the new owners hope to get more use out of the facility, including the large expo hall west of the track. —Photo By Jim Kauzlaric
The Eagle River World  Championship Derby Track facility has been sold to a group of snowmobile-minded businessmen who are rebranding the facility as the World Championship Derby Complex, the new owners announced Friday.

The 30-plus-acre property on Eagle River’s north side has hosted World Championship Snowmobile races for more than 50 years and is considered a vital contributor to winter tourism of the greater Eagle River area.

The group is led by Snowmobile USA and World Snowmobile Headquarters  found­er and owner Tom Anderson, former Bombardier/Ski-Doo Vice President of Sales and Marketing Russ Davis, and renowned drag racer and current Snowmobile Hall of Fame President Craig Marchbank. 

The property was purchased from former owner Chuck Decker, who expanded the famous banked oval with viewing suites and an expo hall over the last 30 years.

Dick and Audrey Decker purchased the Derby Track from the Eagle River Lions Club in 1985 and they sold the property to their son, Chuck Decker, in 1989. In 2013, the World Championship Snowmobile Derby celebrated its 50th anniversary.

As a part of the transaction, the purchasing group acquired 30 acres of land and a handful of buildings that combine to make it one of the largest indoor/outdoor event centers in all of the North Woods. But they also acquired the trademarks, records and other artifacts that will keep the history of the famed World Championship race alive, and keep it in Eagle River.

The purchase price has not been disclosed.

Expand the use

Davis said they are passionate about investing in the community and working together to help grow an existing world-class venue, presently known as the World Championship Snowmobile Derby Track, into a true northern Wisconsin destination.

“Our group is looking beyond the existing facility, as it is the ideal location to be able to host other numerous large events throughout the entire calendar year,” said Davis. “It is an opportunity for us to maximize that growth and create additional business.”

Anderson, complex CEO and producer of Snowmobile USA Show & Sale shows along with numerous state and national consumer shows for more than 40 years, said he sees a greater potential for the property.

“For many years, we have all looked at the facility and imagined it being used for other events,” said Anderson. “Our goal is to establish the complex as having a monthly offering of events and activities that will provide new tourism and local attractions.” 

The group already plans on bringing back the World Championship ATV/UTV Derby next September.

Davis, the complex’s president and general manager, is a former executive of Bombardier Corp. and owns several businesses in the Sayner area.

“With the largest show hall in the area, 30-plus acres of outdoor grounds, food and beverage concession licenses, 15 corporate viewing suites, heated and cooled spectator-seated viewing building and generous parking area, we feel we have the ideal combination of amenities to offer,” said Davis. “We already have booked a wedding for next summer and are considering bringing a weekly flea market to the property. We also have a second USSA oval event scheduled featuring the current sleds, dubbed the return of the World Series of Ice Ovals, in March.”



Race still alive

Marchbank, vice president of operations, brings 35 years of successful snowmobile racing competition. He is president of the Snowmobile Hall of Fame, a supporter of preserving snowmobile history and is anxious to continue the tradition of racing at the Derby Track. 

“When snowmobile racing is talked about, only one event dominates the discussion. That is winning at Eagle River. It is the No. 1 snowmobile racing venue in the world,” said Marchbank. “Our goal is to not only continue that tradition, but to also add other competitive events to the schedule on a year-round basis. We have all the pieces necessary to successfully do that with this great facility.”

Racer Nick Van Strydonk of Tomahawk, who won the World Championship in 2012 and 2017, said he was excited to learn the title race will stay in Eagle River and credited the Decker family for keeping the race alive.

“Honestly, as long as the heritage of the World Championship stays in Eagle River, I think that’s all that matters,” said Van Strydonk. “As long as the track has ice on it come January, there will always be racers there searching for fulfilling their dream of getting their name on the cup. The Deckers have carried on the sport of ice oval racing, and if it wasn’t for that race, that weekend, and the heritage behind it, oval racing would be nothing more than something we talked about and reflected on from years past.”



Other investors

While in a transition mode for now, Davis said the complex will be open for business soon with a new website, social media contacts, communication system and support personnel.

The first priority will be getting the facility ready for the Vintage World Championship and World Championship Snowmobile Derby set for Jan. 18-20, 2019.

“We have a lot of work to do, including repairing some fences, getting sponsors and signs, and just getting this place back in shape,” said Anderson. 

Anderson, Davis and Marchbank said they are all businessmen first, but indicated they are dedicated to the sport of snowmobiling and have a vision for the potential of the property.

Joining the investor group are five other passionate snowmobilers as investors, each with their own deep tie to snowmobile racing: Brian Schiele, owner of the Elmhurst Auto Group in Elmhurst, Ill.; Gary David, former owner of David Building Supply in Marshfield; master engine builder Russ Lemke of RLE Enterprises in Mosinee (who also is in the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame); Tom Anderson’s son, Scott Anderson, of Leisure Features/Snowmobile USA in Eagle River; and Lori Wood, public relations director for the World Snowmobile Headquarters, located in Eagle River just north of the Derby Track.

The owners said they plan on supporting local and area businesses as much as possible and look forward to establishing a mutually-beneficial working relationship with them.

“We want to work with the community, civic organizations and the great volunteers from past Derbys,” said Anderson. “We want to make them proud to be associated with the World Championship Snowmobile Derby.”

For more information on the operation, contact them at (715) 479-4424 or info@derbycomplex.com.