Anthony Leek couldn't take the Emo Speedway with him so he decided to create one of his own.
The former president of the Borderland Racing Association, who was born in Fort Frances and grew up in Emo, ventured out and created his own dirt track—the Lake of the Woods Speedway in Kenora.
After his wife accepted a new job there in 2014, Leek said visions of creating the speedway began to appeal to him.
Leek said he had to pour over Google maps for a few years before finding a suitable piece of land that could fit a track, and also would not need major rock blasting or in-filling.
“After she got a job in Kenora, I decided I needed a race track, too,” he explained.
"I started looking for a piece of property that would be suitable, and was flat, that would work.
“Where the track is now is the very first piece of property I looked at, and we still had to blast [some] rock,” he added.
Leek said construction of the track didn't begin until March, 2016 and that they began blasting the rock that fall.
Located at 556 Jones Rd. in Kenora, near the Weyerhauser Mill about three km south of the bypass and three km north of Highway 17, the LOTW Speedway features a low-banked, 3/8th-mile clay and dirt oval.
“Last summer, we started to really shape the track, got our clay on by the end of October, had a practice on Oct. 22, and then it snowed seven inches.the following Thursday,” Leek recalled.
“So that was pretty much it for finishing that,” he noted.
“And then this summer, we worked quite diligently to get our poles and our fencing up, and our clay into shape.”
The LOTW Speedway held its first races back on Aug. 5-6, with stock cars competing in divisions such as four-cylinders, pure stocks, and WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds.
The plan moving forward is to have races there every Friday night during the summer months, as well as sometimes on Sundays.
“The biggest challenge is always money and resources,” Leek said about maintaining the track and operating the speedway.
“It was a tough decision to go ahead with blasting the rock, given the cost, but we were able to work that all out eventually,” he added.
Leek credited organizations such as Moncrief Construction for being the main factor in how he was able to achieve his dream of building the speedway.
“There's a lot of other businesses, as well, and a long list of individuals, and it was just a matter of working through it all, promoting what it [the speedway] was going to be about, what we're trying to build,” he reasoned.
"People were able to buy into it and we've been able to make it happen.
“We've been able to overcome a lot of those challenges to get to where we are and I'm really happy with how its turned out so far,” he added.
Leek also noted the speedway already has been building a solid base of local drivers.
“It's kind of nice that when we just run a simple practice, we're getting six-eight cars coming out just for practice, with most of them being from Kenora,” he enthused.
"I think we're going to slowly build that local crew and [will] branch a little further out into Dryden and Vermilion Bay and really make it a viable . . . not just [as a] community place but also an entertainment venue, as well.
“We got a long way to go still, with permanent seating and potential lighting and the parking areas," Leek conceded. ”But my main focus was always to try to get this track ready so we could go racing on it.
“There was a lot of pressure in the last couple of weeks to get everything lined up so we could make it as safe as possible and I think we did a really good job,” he enthused.
“It's too bad it had to rain most of the day on race day [Aug. 5] and we had a two-hour delay,” he added.
“But we had about a 1,000 people between both days show up and participate and be a fan and everything.”
Leek also said he can't thank the community enough for pulling together and helping make the speedway a reality.
“I hope we continue to make it, really, a part of this whole region," he remarked. ”And it's really important to me to work with other race tracks, and drivers, and sponsors and fans.
"I invite anyone and everyone to check it out if you have any questions or anything.
“It means a lot to me," Leek added. ”The community raised me in Emo and I'm hoping that I can help bring that same sense of [being a] role model and joy and stuff to kids, and adults alike, with this sport.
“It's a very tight-knit sport and it's very opening and welcoming to new people, and we just want everyone to become a part of it.”
The next race at the speedway is slated for this Sunday (Sept. 9), with Leek noting the plan moving forward is to have races every week or bi-weekly.
“Long-term, my goal is to run weekly or at least bi-weekly racing, and in the winter to run ice racing,” he said.
"I want to bring that sport back to Kenora like it had been for a lot of years, as well as some snowmobile racing.
“We've got some plans in February that are going to hopefully bring some people out and I'm hoping to have an increased participation in our sled events this year,” Leek revealed.
“It's just a matter of continuing to build where we're at and keep moving forward until we're a premiere destination.”