Legislatures, officials not sold on track

Updated: July 29, 2005, 2:16 PM ET
Associated Press

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- In a meeting designed to convince local citizens that a NASCAR track would be a major plus for the Bremerton area, several hundred Kitsap County residents were hosted by representatives from Florida-based racetrack developer International Speedway Corp.

The local residents helped themselves to refreshments and entered a raffle in the commons at South Kitsap High School on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, speedway corporation officials were available to answer questions about the proposed 80,000-seat track they want to build on 900 acres near the Bremerton Airport.

They offered assurances their corporation would work to reduce noise and minimize the track's impact on the environment.

But they didn't offer many details and they still haven't said how much public money they are expecting for the track, which they estimate will cost more than $250 million.

The Washington 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 has sued the Kitsap County Commission over meetings the commission held before the corporation chose the Kitsap County site for a racetrack.

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. Ray McGovern said they prompted him to start fighting the track.

McGovern stood outside the high school on Wednesday night and passed out a one-page flier.

The speedway corporation first proposed a Northwest track site in northern Snohomish County last fall, but escalating costs forced it to scrap that plan.

Project leader Grant Lynch told The Seattle Times the company is negotiating with state legislators, but he didn't want to talk yet about how his company and the public will divide track costs.

The newspaper reported that state lobbying records show that speedway corporation subsidiary Great Western Sports has spent nearly $100,000 in the past six months on meals, trips and salaries of four lobbyists.

Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said she has met with speedway corporation lobbyists twice, but said they haven't convinced her about the racetrack being beneficial to Kitsap County.

"I think it's going to have a very tough sell," Prentice said.

Prentice is chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. She called the Kitsap site "inaccessible" and said she doesn't think speedway corporation officials "understand our geography."

State Treasurer Mike Murphy said last week that he opposes using public money to develop a racetrack.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press