Owner Of Former Race Track Hopes Topless Dancers Turn Business Around

By Chris Earl, reporter

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By Richard Pratt

WEST UNION, Iowa - A former race track owner and operator in Fayette County said that offering "adult entertainment" is one of the only options left for him to make money.

For the last six weeks, the Echo Valley Banquet and Recreation Center in West Union hosts topless dancers -- and even the owner tells us, he's not entirely thrilled about taking this step.

Lee Hansmeier is 67 and has spent the last 12 years offering up his dirt track for years at Echo Valley, trying to make money.

"Then the economy hit and it's been downhill ever since," Hansmeier said.

For two years, there's been no racing, which means no income.

Behind the track is the Echo Valley Banquet and Recreation Center -- good for wedding receptions, banquets and auctions. Yet the bills must be paid.

"Four wedding dances a month don't cut it," Hansmeier said.

On April 1, a new type of entertainment opened. Adult entertainment, with topless dancers on the weekends. Hansmeier said he is bringing in five female dancers this Friday night from Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

This month, Fayette County ruled Hansmeier can operate this type of business. So he is.

"If I can't make money doing this, which honestly I'm not 100 percent in favor of doing, but it's the only thing that's kind of lucrative right now, I won't be able to hang onto the place," he said.

Hansmeier said good night for racing would bring in about $8,000 or more in gate fees. A good night from here brings in about $500 in cover charges. It's quite a drop, and one he hopes won't be permanent.

"I'm sure there's people unhappy with me," Hansmeier said, "but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do to survive."

Hansmeier said the track had been successful for years but, with the price of gas going up, fewer race fans were driving to West Union.

He said that he hopes to have racing back at Echo Valley, but until then, he will keep offering the dancing on the weekends to try and make money.

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