Ona Airpark and Speedway (12V) is just what it sounds like, a combination of an aerodrome and a race car track. The current state of the unique dual-purpose property in Ona, West Virginia, is the byproduct of Bill and Lynn Bauer’s hard work, as well as similar development plans that they once envisioned elsewhere.
“My wife and I were going to develop a 13-acre parcel at Pompano Airpark (KPMP) in Florida. Our plan was to put in a country-style type of arrangement there. But at the time, the city council and the horse stable nearby kept fighting us,” Bauer said. “We fought it for four years, trying to get this installed and take advantage of the lease that we had. Just finally, I was exasperated.”
As fortune would have it, in the face of adversity, the opportunity for the two pilots to develop at another airport became apparent.
“My son, who graduated from Marshall [University] here, said, ‘I think that there’s an airport for sale down the street.’ We basically said that we gave up [on the previous property], so we just bought this place instead. Maybe two weeks after we closed on this property, the airport manager [at Pompano Airpark] called us back and said that we really need you to develop that parcel.”
The change in initial plans did not stop the Bauers from driving towards their goal.
“We bought the airport and the speedway property, which is about 120 acres, about 15 years ago, from the Chapman family. And the grandfather is actually who put the runway in, back in the mid-80s. At that time, the speedway was already there and had been around since the early ’60s and had initially been put in by a group associated with NASCAR,” Bauer explains.
He continues, adding, “So, it was a NASCAR track for roughly five years or so. At one point, they were actually going to have a track run around the two-and-a-half or three-mile-long perimeter of this property, and it was going to compete with Daytona.”
But, because an exit was not created off of Interstate 64, Bauer said that investors backed out and the initial “starter” track [7/16-mile asphalt oval] was the only one that was ever built at Ona Speedway. Regardless, it has still served as a refuge for racers and racing enthusiasts for decades.
“Lorenzo Petty, Richard Petty, and all of the big names raced here,” Bauer said, elaborating on the property’s history. “The speedway has a lot of history, and it has grown since we bought it, as it had been abandoned for quite a while. It’s been brought back, and we are getting a couple thousand people every race day.”
One potential drawback of the airport, Bauer notes, is that it’s in the “middle of nowhere.” But its geographical location seems to have had minimal effect on the facilities’ popularity. When the couple purchased the airport, it had 16 hangars and has grown substantially in the last decade-plus of ownership.
“Everything here at Ona Airpark is also kind of country club [inspired], like we had planned for Pompano Airpark. We have a pilot’s lounge, as well as open access, unlike many municipal airports that have barbed-wire fences and restricted access.”
The open aspect of the airport is beneficial to ensuring a positive airport environment, enhanced by the people who are involved with it.
“It’s a real family here and we have all the facilities that we try to keep looking nice. It’s working very well. We have got 50 hangar spaces, with a waiting list of probably 13 to 14 people looking for an opening now.”
As a result of this commonality and the amenities on site, Bauer says that there is always something happening at the property.
“We’ve got the airport, the speedway, and a radio control flying field all on the property here. The radio-control flying field is a grass strip [800- by 75-feet] and it’s so large that it can bring small [Piper] J-3s in. Some STOL aircraft will also use it occasionally. We’ve also got a large event hangar, so we host weddings here. As a matter of fact, in a couple of months, we are going to have a World War II-themed wedding. So, we are going to have a couple buddies of ours bring in a few World War II planes and set it all up.”
While the airport and speedway have some synergy, they predominantly function independently of one another, he added.
“We don’t have a lot of people flying in for the races. But there are a few now and then,” Bauer said. “There were a couple of visitors that flew in for the most recent race, a few weeks ago. But mostly, it’s drive-in traffic. At the track, it’s all local stock car racing. We have a couple of traveling series that come through here and are starting to become a destination for some of those events.”
The property, which is currently for sale, is unique in one key respect, he said. “The only other one [airport/racetrack combo] that I know of is Daytona. I think that they have a runway next to the racetrack, although that may be a municipal airport. So yeah, I think that Ona Airpark is the only combo that I know of.”
Editor’s Note: Daytona International Speedway is located in close proximity to the Daytona Beach International Airport (KDAB), which is owned and operated by Volusia County. The airport is not associated with the speedway.