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Legislatures, officials not sold on track

7/29/2005

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.