Considering his roots in the Motor City and that he has owned 72 cars since he turned 16, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Michael Krupka is a car nut. At an early age he developed a passion for cars, tagging along with his dad at swap meets, car shows and trips to the junkyards.
“I would say a significant amount of my knowledge and love for cars comes from my dad,” Krupka said. “He used to love to draw cars and take me to different events. I remember as a 12-year-old kid playing a game
with other neighborhood kids where we would sit in the back of my dad’s car and try to guess by its headlights which type of car was behind us.”
Now, with an extensive background in the building management industry, Krupka is taking his enthusiasm to the next level. He has teamed up with fellow Forest Park resident and one of his aforementioned childhood pals Jason Sersen, along with Jason Benson, as co-founders of Prairie Hills: The American Motor Club.
Geared toward a demographic membership of white collar professionals and entrepreneurs who have a passion for motor sports, Prairie Hills will boast the longest European-style grand prix road course in the Western Hemisphere. With more than 3,600 track configurations, it will offer approximately seven miles of driving thrills, including hairpin turns and straight-aways. Krupka and his colleagues are in the process of raising money for this roughly $77 million project and will be at the Chicago Auto Show next month to help drum up interest.
“Prairie Hills has been something that grew into reality back in June of 2005,” Krupka said. “Jason [Sersen] and I had the opportunity to drive on a Saturday so we thought we would get some seat time. All the tracks that we normally would go to were booked and there was no autocross racing available either so we developed our own smaller program. Over the last two and a half years, we have been building on that program and now we have reached Prairie Hills.”
Prairie Hills is slated to open its track in April 2009.
Inspired by their “what would happen if” entrepreneurial plan, the two businessmen have taken the pole position in planning Prairie Hills. Along with the variety of challenges on the track, drivers will be able to “open up” their respective Porsches, BMWs, Vipers, Mustangs or “exotics” like Ferraris and Lamborghinis upwards of 150 mph, often in less than a quarter of a mile.
“We will have four individual tracks that all connect to each other,” Krupka said. “Each track will have its own set of multiple options. On our signature track, a Porsche 911 can probably get up to 160 miles per hour in half a mile. As a member, you most likely will be ale to run through our track for a 10-year period and not run the same configuration twice.”
While Prairie Hills members clearly will satiate a need for speed on the racetrack, safety is a priority. For that reason the track will be a closed course for members only, situated on 872 acres in northwest Indiana.
Seven miles of joy: Plans for the Prairie Hills track in northwest Indiana join four separate courses to give drivers a bevy of high speed options. Designers, two whom live in Forest Park, hope to open the facility in early 2008.
Prairie Hills also will have the pre-eminent karting racetrack in the country. Yes, as in go-karts.
“We will be looking to have major karting events,” Krupka said. “Karting is a very big sport and not just for kids. Some of these go-karts can go in excess of 130 miles per hour. It’s really unbelievable. I’ve never driven one, but to see them in action, it defies explanation.”
In addition to its world class track, Prairie Hills is expected to separate itself from other motor sport clubs with a comprehensive, country-club level amenities package focused on racing and leisure. During the winter season, Prairie Hills will transform into a winter haven as for fun times on a snowmobile.
The emergence of motor sport country clubs is a fairly recent phenomenon, according to Paxton Waters, the lead architect on the project.
“About five years ago, The Autobahn in Joliet was the first country-club style motor club in this new wave of tracks,” Waters said. “Michael understands the market very well. You can be a beginner or a [pro driver and fellow Prairie Hills designer] Derek Daly and thoroughly enjoy Prairie Hills.”
For their money, investors will see a hotel, three-level clubhouse with fine and casual dining, a day spa, family fitness center with indoor pool, tennis courts, rental garages, trackside home sites, a business center and a game room/playground for children, according to plans for the site. Luring those investments can be somewhat tricky though, said Krupka.
“I’ve managed multi-million dollar contracts and had 600 employees before, but this is a tremendous undertaking,” Krupka said. “To sit across from someone who is a CEO or a managing partner for a hedge fund and say, “Hi, I’m Michael Krupka. I’ve never done this before but will you give me $10 million because I want to build my dream,’ is part of the process.”
So far, Krupka and his colleagues have raised more than $1.5 million for the project, and are now focused on reaching the $4 million mark. To help drum up interest in their track, Krupka and members of the Prairie Hills team will be at the Chicago Auto Show from Feb. 6 to Feb. 17 with a driving simulator and information booth. The group also just signed three pro drivers who will work at the finished track offering lessons and instruction.