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Appleton drops gauntlet vs. NASCAR

The 23rd District Democrat says the promised economic benefits are suspect.

Putting the breaks on a state-funded racetrack in Kitsap County will top Rep. Sherry Appleton’s priority list in her newly appointed role on a House economics committee.

“I’m opposed to NASCAR,” the Poulsbo Democrat, who represents portions of North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, said Thursday. “A lot of questions need to be answered and I don’t think the fiscal situation is as rosy as (NASCAR advocates) would have it appear.”

Appleton expects to take an active role in debates over a proposed 80,000-seat NASCAR track near Bremerton National airport when she joins the House Economic Development, Agriculture and Trade Committee as the 2006 Legislative session kicks off Monday.

After failing to garner support for a similar proposal in Snohomish County, Florida-based International Speedway Corp. has asked state legislators to consider splitting the track’s $345 million price tag in Kitsap County.

A portion of state sales tax revenue collected in Kitsap, Mason and Pierce counties would be used to pay back construction bonds.

The ISC estimates the state’s $166 million investment would be paid back in less than 25 years through revenues from race fans who will dine, shop and sleep in the area.

ISC is promising upwards of 200,000 fans each summer and a tourism boom to an area once bolstered by the timber industry.

But Appleton believes the ISC’s numbers are skewed.

“They’d need 98 percent attendance to break even,” she said. “That’s not going to happen.”

She also doubts that south Kitsap and north Mason have enough businesses to draw the projected spending from race fans.

“I can’t imagine the few hotels and diners down there can satisfy all the people” expected to attend NASCAR races, Appleton said.

Instead, areas with a wider array of attractions and accommodations will see the most significant financial benefits as fans flood out of Kitsap once racecars cross the finish line.

“It’s King County that’s going to see the big financial payoff,” she said.

As for a new infusion of jobs, Appleton doubts the ones that come with the racetrack would mean much for Kitsap County families.

“The ISC is talking about 50 employees at minimum wage,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean a lot for economic development.”

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