Top stories 2017: Speedbowl owner charged with sex crimes

Three years after semi-professional racing fans cheered Glastonbury businessman Bruce Bemer for his 11th-hour rescue of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl from dire financial straits, the future of the Speedbowl was put into question. Bemer, who bought the track at auction for $1.75 million and had spent three years improving the facilities, faces allegations that he was part of an alleged prostitution ring involving drug-addicted and mentally disabled young men who were lured into sexual relationships with promises of friendship, money and drugs.

In April NASCAR announced it would terminate its sanction of a racing series there that was set to begin in May, effectively ending the track's major racing event. A new manager, George Whitney, opened for the 2017 racing season, and in June, people streamed onto the track's grounds on Route 85 to find the newly painted grandstands and to watch the delayed start of a season of racing that lasted through October.

Last week, Bemer agreed to set aside $25 million in assets to cover potential damages from pending civil cases filed by almost a dozen plaintiffs. Bemer and another man have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of patronizing a trafficked person.

— Martha Shanahan

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