SEATTLE -- Rebuked in search of support during the last
legislative session, International Speedway Corp. was given a forum
Wednesday to make its pitch to a key economic development committee
as it works to revitalize a proposal to build a $345 million NASCAR
track in Kitsap County.
It seems to have worked.
"It was impressive," House Majority Leader Rep. Lynn Kessler,
D-Hoquiam, said afterward. "It helped me feel a little more
favorable for it."
International Speedway announced plans last November to build an
83,000-seat race track on 950 acres south of the Bremerton airport
with the hope of bringing a Nextel Cup race -- the highest level of
NASCAR racing -- to the Pacific Northwest.
Wednesday was the first time ISC officials had the opportunity
to present their funding proposal to key lawmakers on the state
Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International
Relations. During the 2006 legislative session, ISC's proposal was
muddled by a separate request from the Seattle SuperSonics for a
remodeled arena, and ISC officials suspended their efforts for
public financing this year in January.
John Saunders, International Speedway executive vice president,
said the company would work on the project through the summer with
local officials and then make a decision on whether to pursue
support in the 2007 legislative session.
"It would be premature for me to speculate on what the outcome
of all the work is going to be between now and the end of the
summer," Saunders said. "We're still very optimistic and
encouraged, particularly by what we heard today, about Kitsap
Kessler said the project isn't viewed as dead by legislators and
is just now getting their attention.
ISC has said it would cover about half of the project cost, a
point it reiterated through numerous speakers on Wednesday, and
cover any cost overruns.
Under its proposal, the rest of the money would come from
state-backed bonds financed by a portion of state sales tax
collections and a new levy on racetrack admissions.
The track would be publicly owned on land in rural Kitsap
County, just across Puget Sound from Seattle and accessible by
bridge and ferry -- although many question the area's ability to
handle race day traffic. A similar plan for a track north of
Seattle died when local officials recoiled at the price tag.
An International Speedway subsidiary would lease the racetrack,
preferably for at least 50 years.
Racetrack backers say the plan carries a surefire economic
benefit for the state -- not only paying its own way with increased
tax revenue, but returning $43 million to public coffers over the
25-year life of the bonds.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen -- a project supporter -- convened Wednesday's
meeting, and trotted out various supporters of the project,
including Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, Bremerton Mayor
Cary Bozeman and representatives from Kansas and Arizona -- two
areas with ISC tracks.
Ladenburg considered himself a skeptic when the project was
first proposed. After doing some research, Ladenburg now concludes
that NASCAR may be "the only sport that has an economic impact."
Proponents of the track pitched the facility on Wednesday as
more of a tourist attraction than just a sports facility,
continually highlighting the nomadic nature of the NASCAR fans
willing to travel for race weekends, spending big money along the
Meanwhile, opponents focused on traffic trying to get to the
track's location, environmental issues and whether Kitsap County
wants to be known as a racing community.
"The track will be a transformational issue for Kitsap County.
If built, this will set the tone for the future for years to
come," said Ray McGovern, chairman of the Coalition for Healthy
Economic Choices in Kitsap. "We'll be known as a racing community.
Is that bad? I don't know."
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith said he and Rep. Norm Dicks would work on
the federal level to find funding to help with infrastructure
improvements on the Kitsap Peninsula, including security and
Smith also lauded the possibility of having a regional
attraction outside of King County.
"The number of people who come out for these events and the
amount of money they spend is amazing to witness," Smith said.