SIST says its businesses will benefit the community

The Shawano Leader/October 11, 2004
By Tim Ryan

Despite concerns about vacant commercial properties, the community will ultimately benefit from businesses run by Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy, one of his representatives told the Shawano Common Council in July.

Kal Gronvall said the businesses - which are intended to fund the future Samanta Roy Institute for Science and Technology (SIST) - will also help the local economy.

"That's what we're here for, to build our school but also to benefit the community," he said.

While the jury is still out on that claim for many people, some local business leaders said they are impressed by what has been done with the three businesses Samanta Roy has up and running.

"The ones he has done seem to be doing very well," said Doug Burris, who owns a number of businesses and properties in the area.

"His gas station is doing very well," Burris said, referring to the Mobil station at 1206 E. Green Bay St. "Everybody I talked to said they'd never go in there but because he was a little cheaper in gas everybody showed up there."

Jim Warren, chairman of the Business Improvement District, also said Samanta Roy's Mobil station seems to be doing well.

"I guess if I were buying gas and it was two cents a gallon cheaper I'd buy gas," Warren said. "He probably pumps more gas there than any station in town, and it's probably with full knowledge that he's the owner."

Samanta Roy also owns the Midwest Gift and Fudge House. In addition to physical traffic at the store, located at 104 Old Lake Drive, the fudge house also does business over the Internet at

The most recent business to be opened was Midwest Amusement Park and the go-karting facility there.

Steve Sengstock, director of Shawano County Economic Progress, Inc., said the businesses, particularly the racetrack and gas station, appear to be benefiting the community.

"You go by those places and you see traffic, you see activity, so it seems that it's positive and bringing cash back into the area, or moving cash throughout the local economy," Sengstock said.

Gronvall hailed the racetrack as "the most exciting business that's ever come to Shawano." His comments are from the July 7 meeting of the Shawano Common Council. Gronvall has not responded to requests for an interview with the Leader.

Most of Gronvall's comments at the meeting were about the racetrack and what SIST maintains it will do for the community.

"When these thousands of people come in from all over the country, the motels are going to fill up, the hotels, the restaurants, the gas stations, the grocery stores. This will happen."

While no dollar amount has been put on the investment made there, Gronvall said that a lot of money has been put into it.

"We were new at all this," he said. "We really didn't know much about the amusement park nor did we know anything about go-karting but we found out awful fast." Among the things they learned, Gronvall said, was that go-karting "is the fastest growing major sport in the United States."

The existing track was a tenth-mile oval and four-tenths of a mile course. The track was about 21 feet wide.

"It was a very good course in its day but as things get bigger and better and they get outdated and obsolete," Gronvall said.

Gronvall said he asked the designer - Kenny Venberg of Mankato, Minn., and the vice president of the World Karting Association - what it would take to make this racetrack the biggest and best in the country. The answer was a bigger track - wide, multi-purpose and multi-vehicle.

The track that has been built there is now 30 feet wide and over a mile long.

"It's the longest World Karting Association track in the country and this track will literally put Shawano on the map," Gronvall said. The track, which was built by Northeast Asphalt, has been named the USA International Raceway.

The first official race day was July 17.

"Our intent is to have both national World Karting Association races here and international races," Gronvall said. "It will probably take a couple of years but we have the track."

Gronvall said the topography of the amusement park made for an exciting track that followed the contours of the property.

"In 1947 this land was used as a quarry for building Highway 29," Gronvall said, and the track uses ravines created by that work.

"There are 18 corners on the track, not one has the same banking as the other," he said.

Gronvall said there are ambitious plans for the amusement park, including opening the big track to the public. Drivers will, of course, have to qualify and have a license, he added. "No place else in the country allows people on their big go-kart tracks to do this," he said.

"We have a road course, we have a figure eight, and we have a NASCAR track, which is a banked oval," Gronvall said. "We're going to have electronic timing on two of our concession tracks, the road course and the figure eight."

Gronvall also said there would be corporate events and leagues similar to bowling leagues. And the design of the track will mean being able to run four separate events without interfering with one another.

"We planned the track for many different kinds of vehicles, not just go-karts," he said. "The track can also handle motorcycles and sport cars," he said.

"Our intent is to keep the track busy seven days a week for the season," he said, "from the end of April to middle of October."

Meanwhile, the entire amusement park is being renovated, Gronvall said, including new greens on the mini golf course. Future plans include an indoor track.

"We don't make very much money being three months or six months, so we intend to have a year round facility," he said. An architect from Belgium has been hired to design what will be a two-story, 40,000 square foot facility that will wrap around the big raceway and have gift shops and restaurants.

Next, a giant water park with a 250-foot water slide and indoor-outdoor swimming pool is planned.

Midwest Amusement Park was purchased by Samanta Roy through a limited liability company, Midwest Amusement Park, LLC.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.