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Developer out of gas in bid for NASCAR
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Florida-based racetrack developer has given up trying to get the state Legislature to help pay for a Kitsap County NASCAR track this session, a company official said Tuesday.
Despite extensive lobbying and a well-publicized financial proposal, International Speedway Corp. (ISC) couldn't garner enough support this year to move forward with its efforts, said company vice president Grant Lynch.
Even early supporters of the idea are balking. The company wasn't able to find a bill sponsor, and the chairwoman of a key committee branded the project as ridiculous.
"We've talked to folks down in Olympia, but I don't think there's a lot of energy out there right now to consider the bill," said Lynch, who is leading the effort to build a track in the Northwest.
A 2004 proposal to build a track in Snohomish County fell through after cost estimates skyrocketed. ISC was back within a year with plans to build the track in Kitsap County. Lynch now says lukewarm reception in Olympia has driven the company into talks with other Western states about other track locations. He wouldn't give specifics but said he still hopes to build a track in the Seattle area.
The company released a proposed bill anyway Tuesday in an effort to start discussion and "hopefully receive some kind of positive feedback from the Legislature next year," Lynch said.
The bill provides the framework for ISC's plan to finance the $345 million track. The state would appoint a "Public Speedway Authority" to govern the track, which would be paid for half by ISC and half through sales-tax revenue. ISC's analysis determined that new sales taxes paid by people in the state visiting the track would more than pay for the track's costs.
The state treasurer and some other state officials have questioned an ISC-commissioned study that supports the funding plan. That study estimated that out-of-state NASCAR fans would spend an average of $1,000 each in a major-race weekend.
A "Back the Track" rally at the Tacoma Dome featuring several NASCAR drivers drew about 5,000 supporters earlier this month, Lynch said.
But an opposition group has also formed. Ray McGovern, chairman of the Coalition for Healthy Economic Choices for Kitsap, said he expects the project to return in force next year.
Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent said that she doesn't think the delay will endanger the project. ISC has an option on 950 acres south of the Bremerton Airport. She said she is relieved not to have to take a position on the track during an election year. And it will give her more time to answer constituents' concerns about the track, she said.
"We do need some economic development," she said. "If a race could come in for two weekends a year and the benefits of that track could be used by our own fundraisers and our own community, then it could work out."
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Mason County, was often cited by ISC officials as a key supporter. But he said Tuesday that he couldn't fully back the financial proposal because of the risk it could extend to taxpayers. He said he has "an aversion to public financing."
"I think a track in Washington would be great. It would bring a lot of economic benefits," he said. "Now, a NASCAR track in my district is more particular."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246
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