NASCAR wants 50-50 split for track

The Legislature may finance half the construction through bonds.

International Speedway Corp. this week revealed its plan to pay for construction of a NASCAR racetrack in Kitsap County, and hopes to split the cost with the public.

The 80,000-seat track facility, proposed for a 950-acre parcel near the Bremerton Airport, is estimated to cost $345 million.

The ISC proposal calls for an investment of $166 million from the corporation, with a like amount to be raised from the sale of bonds guaranteed by the state.

The remaining $13 million – 4 percent of the total price tag – would come from sales tax bonds to be paid off from gate receipts.

Since the public portion would be paid through sales tax bonds, track backers say the project would not require any new taxes, nor would funds come directly from taxpayers’ pockets.

ISC, operating locally under the name Great Western Sports, also said it would cover any cost overruns beyond the projected $345 million construction costs.

“Historically, this is the most balanced public/private partnership ever presented to the state of Washington,” said International Speedway Corp. Vice President Grant Lynch. “We will build a world-class speedway that will be the most scenic racetrack in the country.”

Lynch acknowledged the specifics of the financing proposal could still change.

“This is not a done deal. It’s just a proposal,” he said.

The funding strategy, which had been awaited for months, will require support from the Legislature.

The track has earned the recent endorsements of the Port Orchard and Bremerton chambers of commerce, as well as the Kitsap County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Kitsap County officials welcomed the proposal.

“I’m glad to finally have some meat, something where I can evaluate the benefits,” said Patty Lent, Central Kitsap county commissioner.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said she had not read the full proposal, but said she was “pleased to see that the project will always have a positive cash flow.”

On a scale of one to 10, Angel characterized her enthusiasm for the project as a seven, while Lent gave herself a five.

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen declined to categorize her support numerically, but said she tended to be skeptical of public/private partnerships for private facilities.

The next step for ISC is to find a legislative sponsor to introduce a bill to begin the bonding process.

County officials say they’re not far enough along in the evaulation process to comment on the track’s chances, but most said they did not expect the matter would be presented to the public for a vote.

While any venture requires a risk, ISC is making the following guarantees:

• The company would host at least two major events each year;

• The company would attempt to secure the NASCAR Nextel Cup or another comparable event, and would not move the event elsewhere for 25 years; and,

• The company would not construct a competing racetrack within 500 miles of the facility.

Additionally, the track sponsors would commit to a 75-year-lease.

“We want to be your partners for a long, long time,” Lynch said.

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