NASCAR rejected in third straight major city, still trying

UPDATE #4 It's been 16 months since International Speedway Corporation announced that it was evaluating the possibility of building a national-level motorsports facility in the Denver area that would be capable of hosting a Sprint Cup race. Nothing has happened since ISC revealed its intentions and now there's a strong feeling that the company that owns 11 tracks that host Sprint Cup races is no longer actively pursuing a track in the Denver area. Wes Harris, senior director of Corporate and Investor Communications for ISC, claims that's not the case. "I wouldn't consider it dead," Harris said of the possibility of building a Denver-area track. "We are still interested in the market." Harris admits progress has been slow because ISC is seeking to develop a public/private partnership, work out a way to find a possible date on the jam-packed Sprint Cup schedule, find land to build the track and convince local authorities of the advantages of having a track. "The process itself is slow but we have not lost interest from ourselves or the people in the market," Harris said. "The key is getting something done with a public/private partnership rather than finding land. We need a public/private partnership. "The market is very important. We want to be in that market. We want to be racing there in the future but we are going to take our time." Rocky Mountain News

01/18/08 NASCAR officials reiterated that they are exploring the possibility of building a racetrack development in the Denver area, but made no commitment to a partnership with the National Western Stock Show. "We know there is substantial demand for NASCAR racing in the Denver metropolitan region. As such, we continue to evaluate the possibility of pursuing a public-private partnership to develop a national-level motorsports entertainment facility in the market," said Wes Harris, spokesman for Daytona Beach, Fla. – based International Speedway Corp. "While we have had preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties, including the National Western Stock Show, we are not involved in any negotiations at this time." National Western officials this week referred to negotiations with ISC aimed at establishing a 1,000-acre complex near Denver International Airport and perhaps in Aurora that could host the stock show in January as well as auto-racing in warmer months and possibly sports training. Denver Post

12/17/07 Commerce City (and Seattle and New York) is out of the running, but Aurora officials still hope to lure a NASCAR racetrack to the city.

Ten months after International Speedway Corp. announced its desire to build a NASCAR racetrack in the metro area, ISC officials still haven't decided on a location or whether it will be built here at all.

Wes Harris, spokesman for the International Speedway Corp. in Florida, said his company has looked at several locations for a potential track but nothing recently.

Now, the ISC is focusing on securing a commitment for a public-private partnership to help finance the track. That could mean, for example, creating a special taxing district similar to how Invesco Field at Mile High was financed or other measures.

"We're very interested in Aurora, and we are very interested in the metro Denver region," Harris said Friday. "In order to be able to run NASCAR Sprint Cup level events, it's going to require a public-private partnership. Our focus right now is on just trying to build support for that."

One talked-about site in Aurora is near Front Range Airport. Another potential Aurora site near the High Point development close to Denver International Airport fell through this year.

Discussions between Aurora and ISC have slowed in recent months because of the City Council elections (a potential tax increase is never a popular campaign plank to run on) in November and now the holidays.

But Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier said he still thinks there's a good chance Aurora will land the track, a facility that would put Aurora on the map, generate sales-tax revenue and be an amenity to the entire region.

"I'm confident we could put together a deal," Frazier said. "We're going to continue to press this thing and hopefully make it a reality for the people of Aurora and Colorado."

Part of the problem for Aurora is that officials would have to ask voters to change the city charter to allow it to offer enough incentives to bring the track to Aurora.

And it would probably have to do more than that, Frazier said.

In many cities that have racetracks, it's been a public-private partnership beyond incentives, he said.

"I've always opposed a tax increase, but in this case, some public participation will be required," Frazier said. "I don't see this being done entirely by the private sector."

One place the track won't be is in Commerce City. ISC officials said a site there was not adequate for its needs. Many Commerce City officials and residents were against it from the start anyway, saying they didn't want the noise, traffic and other things a racetrack would bring. Denver Post

04/05/07 Opponents of a proposal to build a NASCAR racetrack in Commerce City took control of city government late Tuesday with the election of Paul Natale as the city’s new mayor and Tony Johnson and Jim Benson to City Council. Citizens unhappy with the idea of building a possible 75,000-seat race facility in Commerce City, formed the Commerce City Citizens and Business Alliance to work to defeat the project after the proposal was announced in February. The group made the recent election a referendum on the proposal which is suggested by Rocky Mountain Speedway Corporation, a subsidiary of International Speedway Corporation, promoter of the NASCAR Daytona 500.We made NASCAR an issue in the election, and our candidates won," said Jason McEldowney, spokesman for the Commerce City Citizens and Business Alliance. “This was a victory for Commerce City and our way of life in Commerce City, which does not include the tax increases that would subsidize a race track built by the International Speedway Corporation, nor the environmental or transportation impacts associated with it."

Proponents argue that the track could bring $150 million for the local economy based on similar racetracks built in other cities in years past.

But Commerce City residents say the track will be built only a few miles from major housing developments and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the largest bald eagle refuge in the nation.

“We suggest to (International Speedway Corporation) that they not waste their money in Commerce City and drop their pursuit of the proposed location now," said McEldowney, who noted that Kitsap County in Washington State recently encouraged its County Commission to oppose a similar track after NASCAR executives spent $6 million fighting for it.

“This was a clear message to NASCAR and to all of our elected officials," added McEldowney. “The voters said, ‘No,’ to (International Speedway Corporation) and NASCAR racing in our community."

04/04/07 After losing out on a proposal for a track in Washington State International Speedway Corporation, the parent company of NASCAR, is looking towards Denver, Colorado.

While no deal has officially been brought forward, ISC is looking at 1,300 acres of land near Denver International Airport in Commerce City for a possible racetrack. But like has happened to ISC with its proposals for tracks in Washington and New York, the Denver plan is already meeting some resistance as some residents in the neighborhood close to the site have already voiced concerns about the noise and traffic a NASCAR track would bring. Roger Penske tried to build a track near the airport years ago and was rebuffed and early indications suggest that Denver, like NY City and Seattle (Kitsap), will send NASCAR packing as well.

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