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Bonds to help pay for speedway incentives
A week after billionaire Bruton Smith officially announced he would keep Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, new details are emerging about how local leaders hope to pay for the $80 million incentives package offered to keep him there.
What's in: local bonds and possible increases in the Cabarrus County sales tax.

What's out: a special tax district.

Federal money also may be used to help replace the Rocky River/U.S. 29 bridge. And one project Smith wants -- extending George Liles Parkway from Weddington Road to U.S. 29 -- could be fast-tracked by the state if Concord fronts the money for it. But the rest of the state commitment remains unclear.

Few details of the incentives were offered at the news conference last week at which Smith said he would keep the speedway in Concord, put $200 million of improvements into the speedway and build a $60 million drag strip. The Concord City Council initially opposed the drag strip in October, and Smith threatened to move the speedway elsewhere in the region.

Concord and Cabarrus County each committed $30 million for incentives, and Smith said the state is on board for $20 million. Gov. Mike Easley's office has said only that the state will commit to projects already on the books.

The city and county will need to cover whatever amount the state does not provide, Cabarrus County commissioners Chairman Bob Carruth said.

The incentives discussed include road projects, infrastructure improvements, noise abatement for the drag strip and a property tax rebate.

The county and city expect to issue bonds to cover some costs, Carruth and Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said. Annual debt service on the bonds, which Carruth expects to be about $1 million, could be covered through sales tax revenue.

Local leaders like the idea of seeking a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to transit and transportation issues. Money could be used for roads and extending Charlotte's light-rail line into the county, Padgett said.

With all the tourists at the track and Concord Mills mall, Padgett said, a sales tax hike means people who don't live in Cabarrus would help pay for the incentives. He said the tax increase could bring in an additional $10 million a year.

"This is a very good financial decision for everyone when you compare $30 million to an investment of at least $260 million," Padgett said.

Of all the road projects Smith wants, only the George Liles Parkway extension is in the state's seven-year improvement plan.

"Typically a new project cannot be advanced without delaying some other project in the same area," Ritchie Hearne, an engineer for the district covering Cabarrus County, said in an e-mail. More at ThatsRacin.com

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