All systems are a go for Ace Speedway’s opening on Saturday, which includes allowing spectators into the grandstands.
The speedway, near Elon, will follow the guidelines to hold such an event, and government officials in Alamance County are on board with the decision that will make Ace one of the first venues in North Carolina to stage a sports event with spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clyde Albright, the Alamance County attorney, said in a news release that language in Gov. Roy Cooper's Phase 2 order gives the track leeway to host spectators even as this phase limits mass gatherings outside to 25.
“The exemptions listed in Section 4 of Executive Order 141 include activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights, which include the right to peaceably assemble,” Albright said in the release. “This exemption retroactively applies to earlier Executive Orders. Significantly, the Governor’s language in the Exemption has changed from 'order' to 'strongly urges.’”
Albright also said the governor couldn't limit the number of people who are gathering peacefully, although the speedway this week had referred to a "reasonable capacity" at a facility that seats about 4,000 people.
“The Governor recognizes that he may only urge people engaged in exercising First Amendment rights to practice social distancing and other disease control measures,” Albright said in the statement. “He cannot constitutionally limit the number of people who can peaceably assemble under the First Amendment.”
Because Ace Speedway owners Robert and Jason Turner have been in constant contact with the Alamance County Department of Public Health during the last few weeks, county officials express confidence that the event can be held safely.
“Upon learning that ACE Speedway intends to reopen on May 23, Alamance County has decided not to prohibit its reopening during Phase 2 of Governor Cooper’s plan to reopen North Carolina,” the release said.
Sheriff Terry Johnson of Alamance County said in a statement his officers will not stop the track from opening.
“When I took my oath of office, I swore to uphold the United States Constitution,” Johnson said in the statement. “I will not enforce an unconstitutional law. Upon hearing the opinion of the County Attorney, I do not intend to stop ACE Speedway from opening on Saturday, May 23.”
The release also encouraged fans who go to the races to comply with the guidelines that have been recommended.
“All Alamance County residents are strongly encouraged to follow the recommendations to promote social distancing and reduce transmission, including maintaining at least six feet from other individuals, wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer, frequently washing hands, and remaining home if sick,” the news release said. “Alamance County is committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents, while recognizing that Americans have freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
Robert Turner contends that Ace Speedway's 51 acres of property and its space in the grandstands will allow for safe social distancing.