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Originally published Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnist

NASCAR deserves checkered flag

In an effort to bring NASCAR to Washington state, International Speedway Corporation (ISC) has gone through a painstakingly...

Special to The Times

In an effort to bring NASCAR to Washington state, International Speedway Corporation (ISC) has gone through a painstakingly long and democratic exploration process that has vetted public comment at each twist and turn. It has provided members of the public every opportunity to have their say with ISC, public officials and in the media.

After years of public forums, hearings, studies and debate, House Bill 2062 and Senate Bill 6040 were presented to the elected legislators of Washington for their consideration. The legislation initiates a public-private partnership that creates a public speedway authority (PSA), funded by private investment and bonds issued by the PSA. If passed, local commissioners and councils will have the ability to veto this project if they do not feel it is right for their community.

But, if the public is to have a truly credible voice in this process, then facts, rather than opinions on this project, must be made clear.

Economic-impact studies that were scrutinized by the state's Office of Financial Management state that the project will put more money into the state's general fund than it will take out. It will also pump $4 billion into the state's economy over the 25-year life of the bonds, which will have no impact on the state's bonding capacity.

After hearing from legislators and the Washington Association of Counties, ISC agreed to remove all facilitating language in the bill dealing with possible annexation into a city, which would have impacted the Growth Management Act.

ISC is investing $180 million, plus covering all cost overruns, maintenance and future capital. It will petition NASCAR to move a Nextel Cup race from one of its tracks, and provided countless reasons that this will happen.

The motor-sports-complex proposal is not site-specific. The industrially zoned land near Bremerton was chosen as the preferred site, not the only possible site. Currently, this land generates only approximately $10,000 in annual taxes.

The project must be approved by the elected officials in the host community and meet or exceed the rigorous requirements of an environmental-impact statement. More than 60 percent of the complex will remain green space, 100 percent of the stormwater will be retained on site, and ISC will donate $1 million to wetlands.

NASCAR will not use any leaded fuel at the new facility. A race uses less fuel than it takes to fly a commercial jet on a round trip to Atlanta.

The $875 million investment in the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will significantly increase access to the site in Kitsap County. Race fans arrive over a five-hour period of time; 3,000 RV parking places will be located on the site and ISC has proposed to use more than 500 buses in a park-and-ride system.

ISC wants to come into our community and invest $180 million, move races from its other tracks that are worth in excess of $100 million and bring 100,000 new visitors with an annual return on our investment of $120 million. ISC guarantees to pay all cost overruns and future renovations associated with the sports complex.

ISC is putting its money where its mouth is. Citizens of this state have a voice in this process and scores of them have shown that they understand the economic benefits and endorsed the proposal.

If the public and the Legislature have access to the facts involving NASCAR, this should be an easy "yes."

Ralph Morton is executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, a nonprofit organization with a mission of creating economic development in the Puget Sound region.

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