Scott Gardner steps down as Heartland Park president/general manager

Owner Chris Payne taking over day-to-day operations

Heartland Park Topeka owner Chris Payne said Scott Gardner’s departure as president/general manager was not unexpected and that he and Gardner continue to be on excellent terms. (File photograph/The Capital-Journal)

Heartland Park Topeka owner Chris Payne confirmed Monday afternoon that he and his wife, Stacey, will assume day-to-day operations of the multi-faceted racing facility.

 

Payne said in a phone interview that HPT president/general manager Scott Gardner and his wife, Laura, director of business operations, have stepped down from their current positions to pursue other opportunities in racing, but Payne said Scott Gardner will continue to serve as a consultant.

The positions of director of marketing, communications and road course operations, previously held by Jeff Lacina, have been eliminated, Payne confirmed.

Payne said Scott Gardner’s departure as president/general manager was not unexpected and that he and Gardner, previously a track owner, continue to be on excellent terms.

“It was never going to be long term,” Payne said. “He’s still a consultant for here and our Ohio track (National Trail Raceway), but he’s actively moving on. He’s got a destination and it wasn’t to spend the rest of his life working here.

“He’s looking for other racing opportunities. He helped us build and we caught him at the right time.”

Payne said he had been preparing for him and his wife to take a more active management role in HPT.

“I have other companies that I really needed to attend to, but knowing this was coming we sold one of our companies and I will remain (HPT’s) general manager,” Payne said.

Scott Gardner, who came on board in the spring of 2016, said he thought Payne’s increased role at the track will be a positive.

“I think that’s a good thing for Heartland Park,” Gardner said. “When you’re closer to the situation you can see and understand things a little more than if you’re looking in from the outside.”

Gardner said he and Laura have enjoyed their time in Topeka but thought it was time to explore other options.

“We appreciate the time we’ve had here and I think Heartland Park has made good progress and that trend will continue,” Scott said. “Laura and I told Chris last week that we wanted to move on and we’ll be looking at a variety of other things. It could be track ownership or any number of other opportunities.”

Payne purchased Heartland Park in late 2015 and purchased National Trail Raceway, located in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year. The Paynes will supervise operations at National Trail.

Payne said that even though Lacina will no longer serve as director of marketing, communications and road course operations he still expects Lacina to continue to be involved with HPT.

“He still consults and he’ll be working here probably on our events,” Payne said.

Mayoral elections are Aug. 2
 

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