Kitsap residents hear pitch for NASCAR
Florida-based racetrack developer International Speedway Corp. representatives mingled with Kitsap County residents last night at a meeting...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PORT ORCHARD — Florida-based racetrack developer International Speedway Corp. representatives mingled with Kitsap County residents last night at a meeting designed to convince them a NASCAR track would be a boon to the Bremerton area.
Several hundred residents helped themselves to refreshments and entered a raffle in the commons at South Kitsap High School. Company bigwigs were available to answer questions about the 80,000-seat track they want to build on 900 acres near the Bremerton Airport.
They offered assurances International Speedway Corp. (ISC) would work to reduce noise and minimize the track's impact on the environment, but they didn't offer many details. They still have not said how much public money they are expecting for the track, which they estimate will cost more than $250 million. The meeting had been planned for months, ISC officials said, but it came at a good time for the project. The State Patrol is investigating whether a Kitsap County traffic planner may have broken state public-records laws in an effort to keep the NASCAR proposal secret. In addition, a community group recently sued the Kitsap County Commission over meetings they held before ISC chose the Kitsap County site for a racetrack.
Ray McGovern, a leader of the opposition group Coalition for Healthy Economic Choices for Kitsap County, said questions about whether county officials were secretive in early negotiations with the developer "really irritated" him and prompted him to start fighting the track. But his opposition was tame last night. He stood outside the high school and passed out a one-page flier.
"It's their show," he said of ISC officials. "It's their dime."
ISC first proposed a Northwest track site in northern Snohomish County last fall, but escalating costs forced ISC to scrap that plan. ISC is treading more carefully this time, and though project leader Grant Lynch said the company is negotiating with state legislators, he won't talk yet about how his company and the public will divide track costs. State lobbying records show that ISC subsidiary Great Western Sports has spent nearly $100,000 in the past six months on meals, trips and salaries of four lobbyists. They have dined around Olympia with Kitsap County's state representatives and with legislators on committees that will be key to the success of their proposal.
The corporation has a steep political climb. Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, who has met with ISC lobbyists twice, said they haven't convinced her.
"I think it's going to have a very tough sell," she said, adding that waiting too long to propose a funding package could "backfire" on ISC. Prentice is chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, so any financing package would have to get past her. She called the Kitsap site "inaccessible" and said she doesn't think ISC officials "understand our geography."
State Treasurer Mike Murphy said last week that he opposes using public money to develop a racetrack. He would have to approve any bond sale the state makes to pay for a track.
Lynch didn't seem concerned about the negative press his proposed track has been getting. He called the public-records dispute "unfortunate," and in response to Prentice's refusal to support the track without financing details, said, "I'm comfortable with that." Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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